FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England might have found a running back in undrafted free agent Ralph Webb.
Washington may have lost one with a knee injury to second-round pick Derrius Guice.
Webb ran for two touchdowns and also scored on a pair of 2-point conversions on Thursday night as the defending AFC champions rallied from a 17-0 first-half deficit to beat Washington 26-17 in the teams’ exhibition openers.
“I’ve been working my whole life for this, to come out here and get a chance to compete,” said Webb, who was undrafted out of Vanderbilt and listed ninth among nine running backs on the Patriots’ depth chart. “I’m blessed to be able to be here and say that I did it.”
Guice, the No. 59 overall pick from LSU, was slow getting up after a 34-yard run that was negated by a penalty late in the first quarter. Coach Jay Gruden said he would have an MRI on his knee on Friday.
“I just said a little prayer for Derrius,” Washington quarterback Colt McCoy said. “I hope he’s OK.”
McCoy outplayed New England’s Brian Hoyer in a scrimmage of backup quarterbacks, while starters Tom Brady and Alex Smith stayed on the sidelines counting their money.
On the day that the Patriots reportedly sweetened Brady’s contract with $5 million in incentives, the reigning NFL MVP sat out the game, along with tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Some players played and some players didn’t,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We wanted to take a look at some guys.”
ESPN reported before the game that the Patriots would add $5 million in incentives to Brady’s contract, which was due to pay him $15 million. That would bring the 41-year-old, five-time Super Bowl champion closer in pay to less accomplished quarterbacks around the league — including Smith, who got a four-year, $94 million extension from Washington.
Brady’s agent, Don Yee, did not respond to an email seeking comment. Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the team does not comment on contracts.
McCoy completed 13 of 18 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns in a little less than a half, helping to stake Washington to a 17-0 lead before he was replaced by third-stringer Kevin Hogan.
Hoyer struggled against the Washington starters, but drove New England to a pair of second-half touchdowns, including Webb’s 8-yard TD run followed by the catch on a 2-point conversion that gave New England an 18-17 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Trent Harris strip-sacked Hogan and Geneo Grissom recovered the ball and ran 53 yards before he was brought down near the goal line. Webb punched it in for the touchdown and also ran in the conversion to make it 26-17.
Hoyer was 16 of 23 for 144 yards.
The Patriots offense did little until back-to-back 20-plus yard catches by Devin Lucien set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 52-yard field goal just before halftime. Mike Gillislee ran seven times for 31 yards on a drive that set up Jeremy Hill’s 1-yard run.
Webb made it 18-17 with nine minutes left in the game and added an insurance score with 3:27 to play. Washington’s Dustin Hopkins, who kicked a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter, banged a 56-yarder off the left upright just inside the two-minute warning.
Third-stringer Danny Etling, a seventh-round draft pick, was 2 of 5 for 21 yards, with a fumble for New England. Hogan completed 7 of 9 passes for 44 yards, but also fumbled for Washington.
Washington was hit with a slew of injuries. Also needing medical attention: TE Manasseh Gardner (knee), and WR Trey Quinn, who took a hard shot in the side from Patriots cornerback Ryan Lewis and took a few minutes to get up before heading to the medical tent.
“Trey Quinn is getting checked,” Gruden said. “Some internal stuff going on.”
LEADING THE CHARGE
As usual, Brady led the team out of the tunnel before the game. But he was not carrying a helmet as he jogged onto the field. Julian Edelman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury and will miss the first four games of 2018 because of a suspension for performance-enhancers, sprinted the length of the field.
McCoy hit Cam Sims with a 57-yard pass midway through the second quarter. Sims pulled the ball down behind his defender, made one person miss at the sideline and dodged another before he was brought down at the 2. Two plays later, McCoy connected with Maurice Harris to give Washington a 17-0 lead.
All of the players on each team appeared to stand for the national anthem, some bowing their heads and others placing their hands on their hearts. The Patriots observed a moment of silence beforehand for Weymouth police officer Michael Chesna, who was killed last month in the line of duty.
Washington: Hosts the New York Jets on Thursday night in its second exhibition game.
Patriots: Play their second and final home preseason game on Thursday night with a Super Bowl rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles.
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