Patriots

5 takeaways from the Patriots’ dramatic win over the Giants

Patriots coach Bill Belichick (left) finally had something to smile about againt Giants coach Tom Coughlin. AP

COMMENTARY

The New England Patriots are accustomed to last-minute drives by the New York Giants. On Sunday, it was the Patriots who delivered in the final moments to pick up the win.

The Patriots snuck out of MetLife Stadium with a 27-26 victory on a 54-yard field goal by kicker Stephen Gostkowski with one second remaining. A “Music City Miracle’’ of fumbles and laterals was brought to an end when wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. stepped out of bounds to ensure the Patriots victory.

It was another great game in a long series of classic showdowns between the two teams, so let’s get right to the takeaways.

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1. These two teams play some exciting football: It’s always special when the Patriots and Giants get together for a football game. Especially if you’re the kind of football fan that enjoys heavy drinking and near-heart attacks.

For the first time this season, the Patriots faced a fourth-quarter deficit. They also faced their biggest deficit since the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. And none of it was enough to keep the Patriots from moving to 9-0.

2. The refs made some questionable calls: Talking about referees is never a preferred course of action, but sometimes, there are just too many bad calls to overlook.

Three pass interference penalties — 15 yards on Patrick Chung, 21 yards on Malcolm Butler and 18 yards on Rashaan Melvin — gave the Giants opportunities to score that they may not have otherwise had.

The Patriots won in spite of the officiating. Otherwise the discussion in the aftermath of the game might have been focused more on the referees than on the players on the field.

3. Malcolm Butler turned in a brilliant performance: Odell Beckham, Jr. is one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL, but the Giants pass-catcher was held in check for the most part.

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Aside from an 87-yard touchdown catch on the first drive of the game, on a play in which safety Devin McCourty got in Butler’s way, Butler was superb. He held Beckham to three catches for 17 yards the rest of the game.

Butler hasn’t always been good this season, but when he’s been good, he’s played at a very high level. The Patriots clearly have not lost confidence in Butler’s ability to cover a team’s best receiver one-on-one.

4. Brilliant comeback effort by Tom Brady, Patriots offense: For the second time this year, the Patriots faced a fourth-quarter deficit needing a score to win the game.

Their dominance in that sense has been superb. For reference, Brady had five fourth-quarter comebacks in 2013 and four in 2014. Both years, the Patriots went 12-4. If the Patriots were to win just 12 games this year, they would need all three of their remaining wins to be late-game come-from-behind victories for Brady to match the five times he pulled off late-game heroics in 2013.

I’m not sure the hearts of Patriots fans can stand one more game like Sunday, let alone three of them.

Sunday’s win was a true show of the mettle of this team. The Patriots have not faced much adversity this season, but they’re getting their first dose of it at the midseason mark — in much the same way they started to slow down during their undefeated 2007 season.

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5. Pass protection is a huge issue: Cameron Fleming had his first career start at left tackle. Bryan Stork had his first career start at right tackle. If you had told Patriots fans before the season that Fleming and Stork would be the starting tackles, they would probably have reached for the Tums right then and there.

The Giants defense, one of the league’s worst at pressuring the quarterback (league-worst nine sacks headed into the game), finished with three sacks and created problems for Brady and the Patriots offense all day. There was constant pressure at Brady’s feet, resulting in some poorly thrown balls and nearly resulting in the game-ending interception (if rookie safety Landon Collins had held onto the ball).

If there’s one problem that threatens to end the Patriots season before the Super Bowl, it’s probably their injury woes on the offensive line.

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