Monday, November 16, 2015

Wounded Patriots Win Epic Street Fight Against Nemesis Giants

Brady fumbles here and gives the ball to the Giants deep in his own territory, but he atoned for many mistakes at the end
The New England Patriots seem to bring out the best in the New York Giants. Unfortunately for those Giants, adversity brings out the best in the Patriots.

For three quarters on Sunday evening, the Giants lived up to their hefty name and shoved the world champions all over the turf at MetLife Stadium, but when they absolutely needed it, the Patriots flexed their muscles and exerted their will, with quarterback Tom Brady atoning for a red zone interception and two fumbles by driving the offense into kicker Stephen Gostkowski's considerable range...

...Gostkowski nailing a 54 yard field goal with one second remaining as New England ran their undefeated record to 9-0 with a nail-biting, literally last-second 27-26 victory over their less-than-hospitable hosts from the NFC's eastern conference.

Brady completed 26 of 42 passes on the night for 334 yards - but in a display of both how well the Giants' defense was playing for three quarters on Sunday and also how good Brady is with the game on the line, the 16 year veteran gunslinger picked up 191 of those yards in the fourth quarter.

Not just 191 yards, however, but 191 yards behind an offensive line fresh out of tackles, and a pass catching corps missing two legitimate weapons.

Already handicapped with the loss of running back Dion Lewis for the season with a torn ACL, New England suffered a second disabling injury in as many weeks as wide receiver Julian Edelman went down with a fractured bone is his foot, but fellow pass catcher Danny Amendola stepped up with a huge, Edelman-like effort, catching 10 balls - including three on the game winning drive, one of which came on a desperation 4th and 10...

...and another a lunging nine-yarder that got the Patriots into Gostkowski's field goal range to set up the winning score - not to mention his 82 yard punt return to change field position and give New England some momentum, a level of performance that the Patriots have expected from Amendola all along, and one that they will need going forward, as Edelman will be on the shelf for the remainder of the regular season, at a minimum.

Also for the second week in a row, the Patriots went into this game with a reserve right tackle protecting Brady's blindside while center Bryan Stork took on the tackle responsibilities on the strong side as regulars Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer are all on the shelf with a variety of injuries, Solder out for the season...

...with an interior made up of an undrafted rookie at center, flanked by rookie left guard Shaq Mason and third-year reserve Josh Kline - so for those keeping score, the Patriots are currently without five starters on the offensive side of the ball, with only quality coaching and versatile players on the depth chart standing between them and disaster.

And even that sort of resiliency almost wasn't enough against the Giants.

As usual, New York was able to turn the contest with New England into an NFC East-style fist fight, summoning spectres from past victories to spark an offensive effort that would have been good enough over any other team, with quarterback Eli Manning throwing for 361 yards and two touchdowns on a 24 of 44 performance - but, as seems to be the motif with the Giants this season, they couldn't close out an opponent that they had on the ropes late in the game.

Some of that due to mistakes at critical moments, the most glaring of which at the New England 31 yard line with a six-point lead - and just after Brady lost the ball on a Jasper Brinkley strip sack - Manning took a 13 yard sack at the hands of the always clutch Rob Ninkovich, taking the Giants out of field goal range and forcing a punt. Three plays later, Brady hit tight end Rob Gronkowski up the seam, who split the coverage and rumbled 76 yards for the go ahead score.

There were other faux pas by both teams - Brady would throw a red zone interception in the Patriots next series with a chance to nail the coffin shut on the Giants, and wide receiver Odell Beckham would lose a ball control battle in the end zone to fiesty Patriots' corner Malcolm Butler following that...

...Butler stripping the ball from Beckham's grip in the end zone on a play reminiscent of one made by safety Sterling Moore in an AFC title game years ago against Baltimore, then the Patriots' defense rising to meet the Giants' challenge and keeping them out of the end zone despite having a second and goal from inside the five, a Malcom Brown sack of Manning forcing the Giants to kick a field goal that gave them a two lead with just under two minutes remaining.

Critical, as that forced the Patriots to have to drive for only a field goal, as opposed to the touchdown they would have needed had Beckham converted, a difference of driving 80 yards with no time outs versus 45 to get in Stephen Gostkowski's field goal range.

But even as good as Brady was with the game on the line and needing 35 less yards, even he needed a little luck to overcome his own mistakes.

Facing a 1st and 10 from their own 20 on the first play of the drive, Brady released a floater over the middle intended for wide receiver Aaron Dobson that ended up in the hands of rookie safety Landon Collins, but Collins lost control of the ball when he hit the ground. Had he secured the ball, the Giants would have taken over near midfield and could have taken a few knees to run down the clock.

Instead, Brady drove the Patriots down the field to win the game, the 49th time in his career that he has brought the Patriots back from the brink.

But, thruth be told, there were many heroes for the Patriots on Sunday evening, from Gronkowski and Amendola to Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan to Rob Ninkovich and fellow linebacker Eric Martin, all had plays that significantly affected the outcome of this game - Martin's crushing block that sprung Amendola for his big punt return perhaps the talisman for the comeback...

...and the Patriots needed every one of those plays. Make no mistake, if one of the aforementioned plays are not made, the Patriots don't win this ball game - it was that close and that brutal.

Both teams had late touchdowns disallowed, both lost fumbles and both capitalized on their opponent's mistakes, but in the end, New England finished when New York couldn't, and in a contest between these two teams in which the game is always on the line right down to the wire, to be able to finish is the only way to win.

2 comments:

  1. It isn't a great Patriot's game without a heart attack or two...,or three.

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