The New England Patriots improved to 9-0 on the season, with a giant victory over the New York Giants. The Pats came back to win 27-26 on a 54 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, who was once again nails when he needed to be. In my Friday preview column, I said “Every championship team must face some adversity to gel and become that team”. On Sunday the Patriots became that team.
New England got off to a fast start marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on a Tom Brady to Scott Chandler touchdown. When New York got the ball it was a quick 87 yard strike to Odell Beckham Jr.for a score. The play was one of note as it was the longest play given up by the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era. The play highlighted how good Beckham is, but also showed just how competative Patriots second year cornerback Malcolm Butler is. On the play Butler had great coverage and it was a great catch by Beckham. Safety Devin McCourty had a chance to make the tackle but missed and so Beckham took off for the score. After that play Butler held Beckham to 3 catches for 17 yards the rest of the way. Malcolm Butler grew up today, shutting down one of the best wide receivers in the league.
The game became harder to win when star wide receiver Julian Edelman left the game at the end of the first quarter with a foot injury. It was clear to see what Edelman means to the Patriots offense as they went into neutral with the loss of the clutch player. The Patriots found themselves down by 10, when the defense forced a punt and Danny Amendola received some great blocking and took the punt return up the sideline for a sure touchdown, however Duron Harmon accidently tripped up Amendola. Three plays later LaGarette Blount pounded the ball into the end zone to close the score to 20-17.
The Pats finally gained the lead back on a 76 yard catch and run by Rob Gronkowski. The score made the game 24-23 and after the Pats defense forced a punt, Brady and company looked to be in control. Blount again scored a touchdown that would have put the Patriots up 31-23, however a holding call on David Andrews negated the play. Tom Brady then threw his worst ball of the season on a slant that was behind Brandon LaFell and intercepted. Eli Manning and the Giants took over at the three yard line and all throughout New England you could hear not again. As Eli often does, he played very well against the Patriots and moved the ball down to the New England six. Manning appeared to have a touchdown pass to Beckham, but Butler got his paw in on Beckham to cause an in-completion. The Giants settled for a field goal to go up by two points.
Tom Brady and the offense then willed their way down field. The game looked to be over as Brady threw a pressured lob down the middle of the field that was almost picked off by Giants rookie Landon Collins. On fourth and ten Brady was able to complete a clutch throw to Amendola. The drive entered Giants territory and after another clutch catch and run by Amendola. With six seconds left Steven Gostkowski lined up to kick a 54 yard game winner. The kick was as clutch a kick as Gostkowski has made in his stellar career in New England.
What the Win Means
The Patriots have now opened up a four game lead in the AFC East over both the Jets and Bills. With Buffalo coming to town next week a victory by the Patriots could all but wrap up the East division. The Patriots also now have a two game lead over the Denver Broncos in the AFC Playoff chase. The Pats now stand as the one seed in the conference with the Cincinnati Bengals still to play on Monday night.
Amendola took over Edelman’s role in the offense when Edelman left the game in the first quarter. He finish the game with 10 catches for 79 yards. He sparked the Patriots into life in the third quarter with a huge punt return. The return lead to a touch down and helped the Patriots offense get back on track.
Butler was matched up on one of the best young wide receivers in the game in Beckham. Butler was beat on the second play of the game for an 87 yard score, however closer view of the play shows Butler with tight coverage and a missed tackle by Devin McCourty. Butler held Beckham Jr. in check the rest of the game. No Play was better than his pass break up in the end zone with 2:01 to go in the game.
Gostkowski, who was signed to the largest contract for a kicker in the NFL this past off-season delivered what might have been the most clutch kick of his career. A 54 yard field goal with six seconds left on the road is not easy to do. The clutch field goal came on a night that he past the original Mr. Clutch Adam Vinatieri as the all time field goal leader in Patriots history with his 264th successful field goal attempt.
Things to Keep an Eye on.
Julian Edelman’s injury.
According to sources Edelman could be out some time with a broken foot.
The injury is a huge blow to the Patriots who last week lost Dion Lewis for the season. With Edelman out it will be Danny Amendola who will see the bulk of the repetitions in his place. The Patriots could place Edelman on season ending injured reserve or they could simply hold him on the active roster in hopes that he will return in eight to nine weeks when they would play their first playoff game. In the meantime the Patriots will most likely make a roster move to bring in another receiver. Chris Harper who initially made the Pats roster out of training camp could be brought up off of the practice squad.
Health of the Offensive Line
The Patriots again went with a patchwork offensive line. Cameron Fleming started at left tackle with Brian Stork playing on the right side. The Patriots have been the walking wounded along the offensive line. With Edelman out at wide receiver for the foreseeable future, they will need Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon and Tre Jackson back to help protect Brady who won’t be able to get the ball out as quick without such players as Edelman and Lewis.
The Patriots will savior this game for the night as they fly back to New England and get ready for Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills. ..Follow @BostonFatGuy