Following a Week 5 blowout victory over the Washington Redskins, the Patriots looked to remain undefeated on Thursday Night Football. The New York Giants limped into Foxborough on the short week after suffering their third loss of the season to the Minnesota Vikings. Although previous matchups between these two teams had been iconic, all signs from this Thursday night matchup pointed to Patriots victory.
Before the Game
The Patriots entered Thursday’s game as 16.5-point favorites against the Giants. It was the fourth time this season that Patriots entered a game as 15+ point favorites. Prior to Thursday’s contest, the Patriots were 2-1 against the spread in the contests in which they were favored by 15 or more. However, the Patriots had won all three games by at least double digits.
Giants Depleted Offense
The Giants offense faced a tall task against the Patriots #1 ranked defense. That task became even more difficult after the final injury report. The Giants were missing their #1 running back Saquon Barkley, #2 running back Wayne Gallman, #1 wide receiver Sterling Shepard and #1 tight end Evan Engram. Additionally, Golden Tate had only been activated from suspension for 10 days prior to the game.
Gronk's FOX Debut
Off the field, Rob Gronkowski made his debut with the FOX broadcast team. When asked about the potential of his return to the playing field, he responded with “I would have to be feeling it, feeling it big time to come back.” Aside from this answer, his appearance was as to be expected. Gronk was his playful, lovable self but did not provide much overall analysis. Hopefully he will become more comfortable as his role continues throughout the season.
On the Field
1st Quarter, 1:41: Giants punter Riley Dixon punts the ball off of the back of special teamer Nate Stupar. Brandon Bolden gets credit for a blocked punt for bull rushing Stupar into the kick. As a result, Rookie linebacker/special teamer Chase Winovich recovers the blocked punt and returns the play for his first career touchdown. (7-0 Patriots)
2nd Quarter, 7:11: Brandon Bolden scores on a 1-yard touchdown run. A short field was set up for the Patriots offense following an interception by safety Duron Harmon. (14-0 Patriots)
2nd Quarter, 6:05: Daniel Jones connects with Golden Tate for a 65-yard touchdown pass. Patriots CB Jonathan Jones makes contact with the ball to tip it up into the air, but is beat by Tate. This play resulted in the first passing TD allowed by the Patriots defense this season. (14-7 Patriots)
2nd Quarter, 4:38: Tom Brady is strip sacked by Giants defensive lineman Lorenzo Carter. Giants linebacker Markus Golden then returns the fumble 42 yards and makes an athletic diving play at the goal line for a touchdown. (14-14)
2nd Quarter, 0:36: Tom Brady runs the patented QB sneak for a 1-yard score before the end of the first half. (21-14 Patriots)
4th Quarter, 8:33: Jamie Collins forces a fumble on a screen pass from Daniel Jones to Jon Hilliman. Collins reads the play and immediately breaks into the back field before forcing the ball loose on a hard hit. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy recovers the fumble and then returns the ball 22-yards for a touchdown. Van Noy’s diving play into the end zone was originally ruled down at the 2-yard line. After the review, the call was overturned and ruled as the Patriots 2nd D/ST TD of the game. (28-14 Patriots)
4th Quarter, 3:09: Tom Brady again runs a QB sneak for a 1-yard score. This resulted in Brady’s 3rd game with 2 rushing TDs in his illustrious career, and was the final score of the game. (35-14 Patriots)
Tom Brady entered Thursday night’s game 18 passing yards behind Peyton Manning on the all-time regular season passing list. On the first drive of the game, Brady connected with Sony Michel for a 19-yard pick up. This play cemented Brady as 2nd all time on the passing list behind only Drew Brees. It will be difficult for Brady to catch Brees on this list, as Brees is approximately 2,500 yards ahead and still playing. Be advised, these stats only refer to regular season. With playoffs included, Brady has thrown for over 80,000 yards and 600 touchdowns which is by far the most in NFL history.
Difficulty on Offense
Although the team scored 35 points, the Patriots offense sputtered heavily throughout the game. The Patriots possessed the ball for two-thirds of the game (39:36) and only came away with three offensive touchdowns. This offensive production is plenty to win games, however it is unlike the typical offense we have seen in past years. Tom Brady has been visibly frustrated with a banged up offensive line and multiple question marks in his receiving corp. Thursday night’s game proved a continuation of this trend.
Despite these issues, Brady still threw for over 300 yards. Rookie receivers Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers both produced in expanded roles in the offense. Also, Sony Michel is also emerging as a threat in the pass game. It may be difficult to watch at times, but the development of the Patriots offense is progressing game-to-game.
The Patriots defense continues to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with. The team entered the game leading the league in forced turnovers, and proceeded to produce four more (3 INT, 1 FF). Defenders continue to smother opposing offensives beyond the line of scrimmage which is allowing the defensive front to create insurmountable pressure. According to the stats, it is not hyperbole to say that this is the best defense Tom Brady has ever played with.
The Patriots secondary and linebacking corp are primarily responsible for this historic output. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore continues to play at other worldly level on the outside with slot corner Jonathan Jones emerging as a complementary asset inside. Similarly, Van Noy, Collins and Dont'a Hightower are providing incredible poise and athleticism in the center of the defense. Barring any catastrophic injury, this defense will continue to cause problems for opposing offense every week.
The Patriots have an 11-day layoff prior to facing the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. A much deserved “mini-bye week” to help in the pursuit of 19-0.