No matter the circumstances when the Patriots and Giants get together it always seems to be a competitive game.
Sunday was no different, as the Giants gave the Patriots their biggest scare of the season.
The Pats deserve credit for taking advantage, but for all intents and purposes the Giants handed the Patriots the win.
The G Men had the ball first and goal to go from the Patriots 5-yard line with 2:06 remaining. In the ensuing three plays, the Giants went: incomplete pass (OBJ drop), incomplete pass, sack.
More importantly, they shaved just 16 seconds off the clock due to the two minute warning and the Patriots calling their final timeout with 1:50 remaining.
Poor clock management coupled with Landon Collins’ near interception gave Tom Brady and the Pats too many chances to overcome a 2-point deficit.
After the benefit of film review, let’s take a look some of the highs and lows from Week 10:
Julian Edelman Injury: As Tom Brady said Monday morning on his weekly radio hit, you can’t just replace Julian Edelman. Edelman, especially this season, has developed into one of the best receivers in football. In theory, the Patriots have a viable Edelman replacement in Danny Amendola. Amendola can run similar routes to Edelman, and serves as a sure handed target for Brady, but is not close to Edelman in terms of running after the catch. Edelman is one of the league’s best playmakers with the ball in his hands. Edelman has game breaking ability, and that will be sorely missed in the Pats O for the next 6-8 weeks.
Tom Brady Going Deep: Over the last few years as Tom Brady has aged we have seen him struggle with accuracy throwing the deep ball. Brady has been much better in that regarded this season, ranking 5th in the NFL in completion percentage of 21+ air yards (min. 8 att). Brady has a 43.3 comp percentage on passes of 21+ air yards this season, compared to just 24.5 in 2014. If it wasn’t for some breakdowns on the offensive line, Brady could have had a few touchdowns of 50+ yards in this one. In particular, over the last two weeks Brady has gotten on the same page with WR Brandon LaFell. His 54-yard completion to LaFell was a little bit behind the receiver, but a great throw nonetheless considering it went over 50 yards in the air:http://www.patriots.com/video/2015/11/15/highlight-tom-brady-54-yard-pass-brandon-lafell.
Final Drive: Let’s face it, the Giants handed the Patriots a second chance when rookie safety Landon Collins dropped an easy interception. Having said that, Brady and the Pats recovered nicely from the near turnover to get into field goal range. Brady didn’t force the issue after the almost pick, and relied on Danny Amendola over the middle to get them down the field. It wasn’t the cleanest of two minute drills, but it obviously got the job done. The Patriots went 44 yards on the final drive to set up Stephen Gostkowski, and 32 of those yards were on completions to Amendola. The play of the drive was a 4th and 10 completion to DA to keep the game alive. Brady waited until the last possible second to hit Amendola for 12 yards over the middle. Here is the final drive: http://www.patriots.com/video/2015/11/15/patriots-game-winning-drive-vs-giants.
Giants Pick On Pats Backups: One part of the Giants game plan that was very obvious was that they liked their chances against Patriots backup linebacker Jonathan Freeny and corner Rashaan Melvin. Both Freeny and Melvin were in the game due to injuries (Jamie Collins, Justin Coleman), and the Giants did a good job of taking advantage. There’s such a big drop off from Collins to Freeny. Freeny filled in admirable, but was beat badly in coverage multiple times and whiffed on a few tackles. Melvin also got beat a few times by Giants WR Dwayne Harris, including a big 30-yard play to set the Giants up in field goal range on their final drive.
Malcolm Butler: The stats weren’t particularly friendly to Butler in this one, but it was mostly because of the 87-yard bomb he surrendered to Odell Beckham Jr. in the first quarter. Devin McCourty overran the play, and took a bad angle to the ball causing the major breakdown. Typically, McCourty makes that tackle preventing all the yards after catch. For the rest of the contest, Eli Manning was just 2-9 for five yards with three pass breakups when targeting Butler in coverage. Butler spent the majority of the day playing press-man on OBJ, so giving up just 5 yards after the big catch to Beckham is a heck of an accomplishment. Butler also made a game saving pass breakup in the end zone on the Giants final drive. It might sound a bit homerish to say, but Butler is turning into a very capable #1 CB.
Pats Ditch Big Dime Defense: Through the first 8 games of the season, the Patriots have relied on their four safeties on passing downs forming a big dime package. On Sunday, they opted to go with a more traditional look. The Pats decided to play Rashaan Melvin and Justin Coleman over rookie safety Jordan Richards (1 defensive snap). Richards was typically a part of the big dime look with McCourty, Chung, Harmon, Butler, and Logan Ryan. The decision didn’t exactly pan out for the Pats, as Eli Manning took advantage of the Patriots lack of depth at CB.
Amendola Punt Return: One of the biggest plays of the game was Danny Amendola’s 82-yard punt return that should have been a touchdown. The return provided a much needed spark for the Pats, and set up a LeGarrette Blount touchdown that got them back in the game.
Stephen Gostkowski: The Patriots have themselves an absolute weapon in kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Having a kicker that is deadly accurate from 55 yards and in is such a great thing to have for any football team. The Patriots started the final drive of the game with 1:47 remaining and no timeouts. Having Gostkowski meant they only needed 40-45 yards to attempt the FG. A 54-yarder is no chip shot, but Gostkowski made it look easy.