Thirty-five thoughts on the Patriots’ 35-14 victory over the Giants …
1. I suppose a game in which you win by 21 points and still come away annoyed at how it played out is a sign that you have a very good football team. And the Patriots, now 6-0, do. The defense is spectacular, their special teams put points on the board when the offense was struggling to do it, and Tom Brady and Julian Edelman – with help from unexpected places – finally found their mojo in the second half.
2. But man, that was an annoying game for a long time. Frustrating. Briefly worrisome. The Giants were without arguably their three best offensive players, Daniel Jones (15 of 31, 161 yards, one TD, three interceptions) looked like a bewildered rookie, and yet the Giants – a team the Patriots always want to maul under any circumstances – managed to hang around even into the fourth quarter.
3. The Patriots were so disjointed in the first half that one couldn’t help but wonder whether a bigger issue was at play. Why was Brady so off-target? Why didn’t he see Julian Edelman a couple of times when replay showed he was wide open? Why are the receivers struggling to get open? Why can’t the running backs slice through a poor Giants run defense?
4. They never really did get the run game going [34 carries, 114 yards, with totals padded in the final minutes]. Brady had two of the three rushing touchdowns, taking some hits in the bottom of the pile that you wish he could have been spared from. Sony Michel had 86 yards, but few seemed consequential.
5. But everything else eventually came around. Edelman finished with 9 catches, 113 yards, and a lot of chirping at Giants defenders whose hits seemed to be closer to the knees as the night went on. And Brady’s stats were typically excellent (31 of 41, 334 yards), though he didn’t throw a touchdown pass and the early performance did not qualify as anything near excellent by his standards.
6. The defense, again, was spectacular, with three interceptions and a Jamie Collins forced fumble that Kyle Van Noy returned 22 yards for a touchdown and finally comfortable 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. They held the Giants to just 2 of 11 on third and fourth down.
7. Not sure what to make of Daniel Jones – jeered as the sixth pick in the draft out of Duke, all but fitted for a mustard-colored jacket after a brilliant first start against the Bucs. But he really wasn’t ready for prime time even as the Giants stuck around a lot longer than anyone expected.
8. I’m not sure this means those who were badgered into apologizing for jeering the Giants pick of Jones after his spectacular first start now are owed an apology from those that anointed him the Next Great Passer and True Giant after one game. Ah, let’s just hassle them on the internet.
9. Brady finished the first half with decent stats, completing 17 of 24 passes for 192 yards, but he threw a bad (perhaps wind-aided) interception, throwing several feet behind an open Julian Edelman. It was as off-target as I can remember seeing Brady on a throw, but Janoris Jenkins was grateful, picking it off and returning it 62 yards.
10. The interception was Brady’s third this season, which is more than he had in the entire 2016 season (2). Of course, that was just 12 games for Brady, who missed the first four games for a reason that never ceases to be ridiculous.
11. The most frustrating play of Brady’s night wasn’t the pick, though. It was getting buried on his blindside by Lorenzo Carter, fumbling while being flattened to the turf, and watching helplessly as Marcus Golden returned it 42-yards for a touchdown and a 14-14 tie in the second quarter.
12. Carter beat tight end Ryan Izzo for the sack. It wasn’t entirely Izzo’s fault – Brady held the ball a long time and had no awareness Carter was on a collision course – but he had a rough game overall, missing a couple of big blocks in the second half.
13. The Patriots just haven’t been the same at tight end since Eric Bjornson was let go. (OK, they miss Gronk too, perhaps even more as a blocker than a receiver.)
14. The way Brady talks about young receivers sometimes, it’s fair to wonder whether he was giving Jakobi Meyers much of a chance to make a good impression. But Brady did give the early training camp sensation some chances to make plays Thursday night, and Meyers made them
15. The biggest one was a 23-yard catch with the Patriots driving for the go-ahead touchdown late in the first half. But he also contributed two more first-half receptions, with the three catches totaling 53 yards before the break.
16. Meyers finished with four catches for 54 yards, while fellow rookie Gunner Olszewski chipped in with a pair of catches for 29 yards, including a 23-yarder. They were the first two catches of his career.
17. The opportunity came in part because Josh Gordon left with what looked like a leg injury after trying to tackle Golden on his TD return of Brady’s fumble. If Gordon is hurt, the Patriots need to trade for a receiver. They probably should anyway.
18. The Giants managed to be tied at halftime without converting a third down. The first one occurred when Jones found Golden Tate for 13 yards on third and 3 from the Patriots 43.
19. I’m a believer in momentum in football, but not when a rookie quarterback is involved. On the very next play after the third-down conversion, Jones threw a strike to Stephon Gilmore, who at this writing is not a Giants wide receiver, for the rookie’s third intercepted pass of the game.
20. Chase Winovich entered the game having participated in 31.9 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps (101 total snaps). That’s not bad for a rookie on a stacked defense, but he’s going to end up with statistics of a player who is on the field a lot more often.
21. He already has 4 sacks, and scored the Patriots’ first touchdown Thursday, recovering Brandon Bolden’s blocked punt on the 6-yard line and running it in for the first points of the game in the second quarter. For a rookie linebacker, he’s doing that No. 50 jersey of Mike Vrabel and Rob Ninkovich proud.
22. Am I the only one that appreciates Bolden more this time around than during his first stint with the Patriots? Or maybe it’s just that he’s contributing more in noticeable ways. Bolden’s blocked punt was his second in the past three weeks, and he also had a rushing touchdown, his second of the season.
23. Let the record show that the Patriots defense allowed its first touchdown pass of the season in the 22nd quarter played.
24. Golden Tate, who joined the Giants over the Patriots in the offseason because that’s the kind of thing Golden Tate does, beat Jonathan Jones (who nearly tipped away the pass) for a 64-yard catch-and-run-and-showboat, cutting the score to 14-7 with just over 6 minutes left in the second quarter.
25. The first two touchdowns the Patriots defense allowed this season were sort of flukes. Redskins back Stephen Sims’s 65-yard run for a TD last week when about 60 yards longer than it should have because a bunch of sure-tackling Patriots sure did forget to tackle.
26. Tate caught his TD pass almost on a rebound after Jones tipped it but couldn’t bat it away. Thought the Giants had already filled the lifetime quota for excellent-but-somewhat-fortunate catches against the Patriots.
27. It feels like Josh McDaniels sometimes forgets to utilize James White for prolonged stretches, and at other times forces the ball his way a little too often when nothing else is working (this is scar from the 2015 AFC Championship game).
28. The Patriots used him well Thursday night though. He had six catches on six targets in the first half, including four on the go-ahead drive just before halftime. The most crucial was a nifty 8-yard catch and run on 3rd and 6 that kept the drive going.
29. Requisite placekicking status report: In his second game as a Patriots, Mike Nugent made all five of his extra points, only the second time a Patriot kicker has hit ‘em all that year.
30. Stephen Gostkowski was 3 for 3 on extra-points and 4 for 4 on field goals in the opener against Pittsburgh. How long ago that seems.
31. But it wasn’t perfect. Nugent punched a 40-yard field goal attempt off the left upright with 2:47 left in the third and the Patriots trying to take a 24-14 lead.
32. And facing a fourth-and-5 from the Giants 33 in the fourth quarter, the Patriots went for it rather than having Nugent attempt a 50-yarder. Probably the right thing to do anyway, even though they didn’t convert. You do wonder whether a more reliable kicker would have gotten the shot.
33. Giants linebacker David Mayo was everywhere, finishing with 7 tackles in the first half and a half-sack. Not the first time a Mayo had a bunch of tackles at Gillette Stadium.
34. You know what I dislike most about Thursday night games? One, that Fox refers to the Patriots-Giants Super Bowls more than it did The Curse and Babe Ruth during the Red Sox’s pre-catharsis days. Two, it means there’s no Patriots game Sunday. What am I going to do, finally watch that Minshew guy?
35. But maybe they’ll have some of these offensive issues repaired before we see them again.