FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – OK, so now we know.

If Tom Brady, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Devin McCourty, Logan Mankins and just about every other Patriots starter was injured at the same time, Bill Belichick’s guys might still be all right.

They were Thursday night. Patriots reserves and wanna-bes held the spotlight in New England’s first preseason game, a 47-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium.

What else did you expect? That Brady, Ochocinco and others play a series or two?

Even in this preseason of seeking fan forgiveness for the four-month long lockout, even if the Patriots showed their appreciation by selecting 80 fans to line the field before the game, that wasn’t going to happen. Heck, 17 Patriots didn’t even dress, including Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk and James Sanders.

No, Belichick was going to use this game to see what he has beyond the obvious.

“We looked at a lot of players, a lot of young players, and that was kind of the idea,” said Belichick. “Get them in there and let them play, let them play against some better people at the beginning of the game so we can get a good evaluation when we look at the film.”

And it became obvious that the Pats have some talent.

Brady’s backup, Brian Hoyer, led the Pats to a 19-9 halftime lead. He had a 111.4 quarterback rating, completed 15 of 21 passes for 171 yards and threw a touchdown pass to Taylor Price — a second-year receiver with enormous potential.

Price did pretty well, too. He made a leaping finger-tip grab on his touchdown pass, tip-toeing in at the back of the end zone, then later turned a quick out into a 50-yard gain. He finished with five catches for 105 yards.

“I knew I was going to get a lot of reps, I knew I was going to get the ball,” said Price. “And I wanted to go out there and show my improvement and where I grew in my game. Just go out and play ball.”

Belichick noticed.

“That year made a big difference for him,” said Belichick.

Rookie Stevan Ridley scored a couple of 1-yard runs and displayed some inside toughness. Then he took a swing pass from fellow rookie Ryan Mallett and turned it into a 16-yard touchdown pass. Ridley, an LSU alum like Faulk, finished with 64 yards rushing, with an impressive 21-yarder.

Mallett looked every bit as good as Hoyer, directing four touchdown drives. He finished with a quarterback rating of 108.2, completing 12 of 19 passes for 164 yards and a TD.

Belichick wasn’t completely surprised by the showing of the young players, noting he and his staff have seen glimpses of their talent in practices.

“We’ve got to work on doing it more consistently,” he said.

And the only way to do that is to let them play more than, say, the starters, many of whom watched in uniform from the sideline.

“There’s only so many guys you can play in a game like this,” said Belichick. “We felt it would be good to let some guys play and get in the flow of the game where they really got a chance to show what they could do rather than play a series and come out and someone else go in there.

“So basically we played two groups on both sides of the ball and those guys got a lot of playing time.”

This was, as usual, a very workmanlike effort by the Patriots, who came out in a 4-3 defensive look that kept the Jaguars out of the end zone.

If you wanted entertainment, you would have been best served watching from home with the remote clicker nearby.

In fact, referee Ed Hochuli — he of the Herculean arms — provided the entertainment highlight of the evening. Early in the third quarter, he left his ref microphone on.

We heard a loud and long yawn — he wasn’t the only one who felt like nodding off — and a conversation he had with a fellow ref, who was still thinking about a call he made in the first half.

“You don’t even think about it anymore,” Hochuli told him.

That’s a sentiment that Belichick surely passed along to his players moments after the game.

Time to move on.

“I thought there were some positive things tonight,” said Belichick. “We got off to a slow start obviously (giving up a field goal, losing a fumble on the Pats’ first offensive play, then giving up another field goal). There are plenty of things we need to work on.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH