FOXBORO -- It was a pick-six thrown by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in a preseason game that New England eventually won 42-35.
No big deal -- except as preseason games go, this touchdown made for pretty good theater.
Of all the Philadelphia Eagles who could have intercepted Brady on the Patriots' first offense series Friday night at Gillette Stadium, and returned that pick 77 yards for a touchdown, it of course had to be Cary Williams.
A seventh-year NFL cornerback with a Super Bowl ring from the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, Williams had been outspoken in an apparent belief that the Patriots' early-2000s dynasty was the result of covert video taping. He recently called the Patriots "cheaters" and told the Philadelphia Inquirer "they haven't won a Super Bowl since they got caught.
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Williams spoke with Patriots coach Bill Belichick after Friday's game and backed off those comments. "I respect the organization and I told him I was sorry for the words that I said," said Williams.
But Williams had been technically correct. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell certainly considered Belichick's taping of opponents' defensive signals from unauthorized vantage points to be cheating. And we are in fact entering Year 10 since the Patriots last won a Super Bowl.
The death of that Year 10 probably flashed before Patriots fans' eyes as Brady dived clumsily at Williams as the legacy-bashing Eagle raced up the sideline.
The interception did not seem to be Brady's fault.
"Just a miscommunication," said Brady. "It happens. Glad it happened in the preseason."
As for Williams, who more famously picked off Brady in the fourth quarter of the 2012 AFC title game in Foxboro, he suffered a hamstring injury during his touchdown return Friday night.
Brady picked himself up, and on the Patriots' second offensive series, fired a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins.
After sitting out the preseason opener in Washington eight nights earlier, Brady on Friday finished 8 of 10 for 81 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took over the Patriots' offense with 5:01 left in the first quarter -- and his legend grew.
The defense provided Garoppolo with a short field to get warmed up. The Eagles' first offensive snap didn't come until 5:09 left in the first quarter. It resulted in Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower smacking the ball loose from 6-foot-7 Eagles wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah out of Boston College, and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly recovered the fumble at the Eagles' 28.
Four plays and two Eagles penalties later, Garoppolo hit wide-open fullback James Devlin in the left flat for a 15-yard touchdown and 14-7 lead.
Garoppolo later threaded a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell for a 21-7 lead with 8:44 left in the second quarter. The second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois finished 6 of 12 for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Ryan Mallett, the fourth-year quarterback still thought to be Brady's backup, did not practice on Sunday and Monday for "maintenance" (his word) reasons after his poor preseason opener. He followed Garoppolo into the game on Friday, starting the second half and improving his job security in New England or his trade value. Mallett finished 7 of 11 for 91 yards and one touchdown. He also ran six yards for a third-quarter score.
There should be plenty for Belichick to grouse about in the film room. That should make the coach happy.
Stevan Ridley (surprise, surprise) fumbled. Teammate Devlin was right there to recover the loose ball. Still, Ridley fumbled, resurrecting those grave concerns on a night when the fourth-year running back ran well (9 carries, 45 yards).
Also, the Patriots had a punt blocked. Philadelphia's Arrelious Benn broke through to reject a Ryan Allen second-quarter punt and set up the Eagles' first touchdown.
In the third quarter, Allen had a perfect snap go through his hands. He scrambled to get the kick off, but by that time the Patriots were penalized for having a player illegally downfield. Not what we're looking for.
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