The box score doesn’t tell the whole story of the New England Patriots’ defensive effort in their Week 10 win over the New York Giants.
The Patriots gave up 422 yards and 6 yards per play — their second highest totals of the season — but were clutch when they needed to step up at the end of the game.
While the Patriots’ offense turned over the ball twice in the fourth quarter, their defense forced two punts and then held the Giants to a field goal, allowing quarterback Tom Brady to lead his team down the field to win 27-26 after a 54-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
We’ll highlight some of those clutch plays in this week’s film review.
— Quarterback Tom Brady came through when it mattered for the Patriots, leading them on a game-winning drive, but he also nearly threw the game away twice. Brady tossed a costly interception in the red zone with 6:10 remaining in the fourth quarter as the Patriots led 24-23. A touchdown or field goal in that situation would have made it tough for the Giants to come back and retake the lead. Brady called it a “terrible” throw after the game. It was clearly thrown behind wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
— The Patriots got the ball back with 1:47 remaining down 26-24, and Brady chucked it up deep into double coverage toward Aaron Dobson as pressure bore down on the quarterback. The ground caused Giants safety Landon Collins to drop a would-be interception, and the Patriots remained alive to finish their comeback to win 27-26.
— Brady also completed his best deep ball of the season, a 54-yard heave to wide receiver Brandon LaFell.
— After Julian Edelman went down with a broken foot, Danny Amendola saw more snaps outside, but he still mostly stayed in the slot. Amendola caught 10 passes for 79 yards, including three fantastic plays on the Patriots’ last-minute drive. He did a nice job of gaining 6 extra yards on the Patriots’ final play before spiking the ball. Stephen Gostkowski knocked through a 54-yard field goal to win the game on the next play.
— Rob Gronkowski had another monster game with five catches for 113 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown, despite frequent bracketed coverage from the Giants.
— The Patriots missed Dion Lewis and received just three catches on four targets for 17 yards out of running backs LeGarrette Blount, James White and Brandon Bolden. White was the Patriots’ primary third-down back.
— Cameron Fleming, starting his first career game at left tackle, and Bryan Stork, making his first NFL start at offensive tackle, allowed 11 combined pressures to the Giants. Stork allowed two sacks with a quarterback hit and three hurries. Fleming and Stork held up OK, but the sooner Sebastian Vollmer (concussion) and Marcus Cannon (toe) return from injuries, the better.
— Right guard Josh Kline also struggled at times in pass protection, allowing two quarterback hits and a hurry.
— Check out this week’s pass-protection stats.
— The Patriots received even less production from their third-down backs on the ground. White and Bolden combined for 2 yards on two carries.
— Blount carried the ball 19 times for 66 yards. Blount’s best carry of the game came with 7:37 left in the fourth quarter, when he showed off impressive strength and balance on the way to a 13-yard gain.
— Rookie left guard Shaq Mason is fantastic on pull blocks, but he still shows his lack of power at times, either falling to the ground or losing a block too often, as a run blocker.
— Blount carried the ball nine times for 18 yards on runs to the left, behind Cameron Fleming and Mason, and eight times for 42 yards with a touchdown to the right, behind Josh Kline and Bryan Stork, both of whom consistently impressed as run blockers.
— The Patriots saw a pick play coming with 1:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. Logan Ryan began on wide receiver Rueben Randle before passing him off to safety Devin McCourty. Ryan then picked up Dwayne Harris, and Manning took a 6-yard sack rather than throwing into tight coverage. The Giants were forced to settle for a field goal on the next play.
— Malcolm Butler allowed an 87-yard touchdown to wide receiver Odell Beckham in the first quarter, then allowed just two catches on nine targets for 5 yards for the rest of the game. Butler was fantastic for 50 minutes of the Week 10 matchup. Butler also showed off his top-tier tackling ability, limiting Beckham to a 1-yard catch midway through the third quarter. Butler did a nice job staying with Beckham despite having to sift through traffic.
— Butler’s biggest play came with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, when he allowed a catch to Beckham in the end zone, then hit the Giants receiver’s arms, forcing the ball out. The play originally was ruled a catch but was overturned.
— Ryan also played extremely well, allowing just three catches on four targets for 39 yards with a pass breakup. Ryan gave up a 31-yard catch to Randle in the second quarter, but he had solid coverage on the play. Also watch Butler stay stride for stride with Beckham down the far sideline:
— Cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin each struggled. Coleman had the excuse of wearing a cast on this right hand. Both players were taken off the field in favor of McCourty and safety Duron Harmon near the goal line. The Patriots are unique in having the ability to trust their free safety to cover wide receivers one-on-one in high pressure situations and in having another trustworthy safety to take off the bench.
— Linebacker Jonathan Freeny also was targeted frequently.
— Safety Patrick Chung didn’t allow a reception and helped take away running back Shane Vereen as a receiver and in the run game.
— Bill Belichick should like defensive tackle Malcom Brown’s hustle on a tackle 7 yards down the field in the passing game late in the third quarter.
— The Patriots mostly stayed in Cover-1 man coverage, but they also mixed in Cover-2, Cover-2 man, Cover-3 and Cover-0 near the goal line. The Patriots allowed 16 catches on 34 targets for 281 yards with a touchdown and two sacks in man coverage. They allowed eight catches on 10 targets for 80 yards with two sacks in zone. They allowed five catches on eight targets for 51 yards and a 10-yard scramble in Cover-2 man. The Patriots could afford to run eight plays in Cover-2 man because Eli Manning isn’t a scrambling threat. Cover-2 man takes the defender who usually roams the middle of the field and puts him back deep covering half the field.
— Check out this week’s pass-coverage stats.
— Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich each came away with clutch sacks in the 27-26 win.
— Jones forced a turnover as the Giants were driving down the field midway through the second quarter. Jones used his length and power to get around Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers. Coleman recovered the fumble.
— Ninkovich forced the Giants to punt rather than kick a field goal or score a touchdown with a 13-yard sack early in the fourth quarter that pushed them back from the 31-yard line to the 44.
— Check out this week’s pass-rush stats.
— Sealver Siliga is losing playing time to rookie Malcom Brown, but the veteran defensive tackle might have had his best game of the season, holding up well against double teams at the line of scrimmage thanks to his massive frame.
— Akiem Hicks, acquired before the Patriots’ Week 4 bye, made the Patriots’ lone tackle for loss in the run game.
— Linebacker Dont’a Hightower still didn’t look quite like himself with Jamie Collins out, but he still managed a few high-impact plays, blowing up offensive linemen and standing up running backs with the ball in their hands.
Thumbnail photo via Jim O’Connor/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Nov 15, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) breaks up a pass intended for New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. New England Patriots defeat the New York Giants 27-26. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports