New England Patriots 35 – New York Giants 14
Just four nights after the NYG loss to MIN, the Giants found themselves at a windy Gillette Stadium to take on the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The short week combined with a couple of injuries to key players on offense likely contributed to the massive underdog tone going in to this one. However, NYG has had this overlooked-label attached to them heading into a match-up against Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and company before.
NE drove down the field on the opening drive but consecutive stops at the NYG 19-yard line with just 1 yard to go, the second of which being fourth down, gave NYG the initial momentum. As was the case for most of the night, the NYG offense couldn’t respond as they went 3-and-out. They were without Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley against a team that is 12-0 at home against rookie quarterbacks since Belichick took over.
The two teams traded 3-and-outs before Daniel Jones threw his first interception of the night, this one to John Simon. However Brady, continuing his streak of sub-par play against the Giants in white, threw an interception to Janoris Jenkins on the next play and the messy football we are used to seeing on Thursday nights across the league appeared to be back in full effect.
NYG was not able to take advantage of their 50-yard line starting field position and the defensive battle continued all the way to the point where the first score of the game came on a “blocked” punt. Linebacker Nate Stupar, the personal protector to punter Riley Dixon, was pushed backwards to the point where the trajectory of the ball was right at his helmet. Rookie Chase Winovich caught the live ball and carried it into the end zone.
Brady and the NE offense continued to stall because of a quality pass rush by NYG with perhaps a little help from the wind, which made it hard to really force the ball downfield. That wind, and perhaps the best defense in the NFL, had the tough impact on Jones as well. He threw his second interception of the night, this time to safety Duron Harmon, giving NE the ball at the NYG 20-yard line. Five plays later Brandon Bolden crossed the goal line as NE took a commanding 14-0 lead.
As we have seen multiple times already, Jones showed a short memory by standing tall in the pocket on the next drive while continuing to go through his reads. On the third play, Jones hit Golden Tate for a 64 yard touchdown on a perfectly-thrown deep ball that Tate tipped to himself before outrunning the NE secondary to the end zone. It was the first time NE had allowed a touchdown through the air this season.
Brady was sacked and fumbled on a hit by Lorenzo Carter on the next drive and the surging Markus Golden scooped it up before returning it for a 42-yard touchdown. All of the sudden NYG had this game tied up at 14 but NE responded with a smooth, steady drive that ended with a Brady 1-yard touchdown. Even though NYG had been out-gained 228-129, Jones had thrown 2 interceptions, and the NE special teams had scored a touchdown on a blocked punt, the game still very much felt within striking distance at halftime.
The ever-important first possession of the second half ended in Jones’ third interception of the night, this time to cornerback Stephon Gilmore. New NE kicker Mike Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal after a marathon drive and NYG just couldn’t get past midfield. The offense was sputtering all night besides the one deep ball to Tate. On the ground, Jon Hilliman couldn’t get going. Even worse on their next drive, Hilliman fumbled and it was scooped up by linebacker Kyle Van Noy who returned it for a 22-yard touchdown, the Pats second non-offensive score of the night.
NYG was down 28-14 with the just over 7 minutes left when they were faced with a 4th-and-2 from their own 33-yard line. Would they run? Would they pass? Head Coach Pat Shurmur, owner of a 17-38 record as a Head Coach, opted to punt. NE then scored another touchdown on another 1-yard Brady run while taking off another 3+ minutes of game clock. The night was all but over after that.
Giants lose 35-14.
-Daniel Jones: 15/31 – 161 yards – 1 TD / 3 INT / 35.2 QBR. We knew these past 2 games against MIN and NE would be a different level test for Jones when compared to the two teamse started off against (TB/WAS). On a short week; traveling to NE on a windy night; up against a coach that has feasted on rookie quarterbacks; without his number one receiver, number one tight end, and number one and two running backs had the look of near-impossible. Jones did compete and showed plenty of physical and mental toughness, but when evaluating his play, it was poor. Big picture we can talk about this being a learning experience for him, which is fine, but Jones played bad. Three interceptions and another one that was dropped were the lowlights. He looked confused multiple times and at the end of the day, QB play like that against a team like NE makes a loss inevitable.
-Jon Hilliman: 11 att / 38 yards – 2 rec / -3 yards. Hilliman got his second shot at carries with Barkley and Gallman out and, like last week, it did not go well. His fumble was scooped up for a defensive touchdown and he failed to make an impact otherwise. The all-22 tape showed cutback lanes on three of his carries that he simply didn’t see. Prime example of how important vision is for a back, as Barkley could have taken those 1-2 yard gains and turned them into something huge.
-Golden Tate: 6 rec / 102 yards / 1 TD. Tate was targeted underneath and intermediate often but the one deep shot he got was turned into a 64-yard touchdown. A week after he subtly complained about not getting enough looks against MIN, he responded. His routes are a thing of beauty and once he, Shepard, and Engram are on the field at the same time, they will be a tough trio to cover on sub-3rd-and-7 situations.
-Darius Slayton added 3 catches for 32 yards. He was targeted 8 times and if there is one positive to the offensive weapons being hurt, it is more playing time for the gifted Slayton. He was up against a guy who I think is the best CB in the league right now, Stephon Gilmore, a bunch in this one. Good for him to see how hard it is to get open in addition to competing for the ball when a guy like that is on you. Slayton showed some downfield acceleration that is going to be a weapon here once he gets more confident in his reads and routes. He did have a drop and there are some inconsistencies I see play to play, but he is going to be a difference-maker here.
-Rhett Ellison: 3 rec / 30 yards. Ellison saw an uptick in snaps with Engram out. He gave NYG what he has been giving for a couple years now, limited ceiling across the board but reliability and consistentcy. NE squeezed running lanes from the outside a few times and it was partially the fault of Ellison who just couldn’t get a push as a blocker.
-While a lot of the difficulties Jones experienced came from quality coverage by the NE back 7 and him simply holding onto the ball for too long, the line was still very shaky. Nate Solder and Mike Remmers each allowed 2 pressures in addition to poor run blocking. Their grades on a week-to-week basis are just above what Ereck Flowers was putting out. While their basements aren’t as low as Flowers was, they need to be more reliable. As much as I want NYG to get a premier pass rusher in next year’s draft, I think OT is going to be offseason priority number one.
-Inside, Kevin Zeitler had a really good game, the top grade on the OL. Hard to always tell who is playing well when a team can’t get the running game going but he was a bright spot. Jon Halapio had another below average game, leaving just week 1 vs DAL where I came away impressed with his effort. Will Hernandez allowed a pressure and was flagged for a hold. One of the sacks could have been attributed to him as well but Jones should have gotten rid of the ball.
-If there is one bright spot from this game and recent weeks, the edge play has steadily improved. Markus Golden had a half-sack. That makes 5-straight games with a sack for Golden and he now ranks sixth in the NFL with 5 this season. He also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery caused by a Lorenzo Carter sack, who also added 2 pressures. Carter is still the guy who makes a play every now and then that makes you dream. There is still hope regarding his upside.
-Dalvin Tomlinson was a solid presence all night, turning in easily his top performance of the year, maybe even the past two years. He made a crucial 4th-and-1 stop on the NE opening drive. Dexter Lawrence remains active and disruptive. He had 5 tackles and a pressure. What’s most impressive lately are the amount of plays he is impacting away from the point-of-attack. He is getting to the sidelines, he is reaching receivers on screens and short passes. Just a really disruptive force on every level you can think of.
-B.J. Hill put in another quiet night. While I don’t have any legit concerns with him, I do think the expectations got a little high on him because of a 5.5 sack rookie campaign. Just another example why the volume of sacks in one season shouldn’t be considered too heavily when evaluating a player. He is getting a lot of dirty-work done this year so it isn’t easy to see what he is doing well and what he isn’t, but the past two weeks haven’t been quality performances.
-Huge games for both Alec Ogletree and David Mayo. Ogletree returned after missing time with a hamstring injury and led the team with 12 tackles / 1 sack / 1 TFL /1 pressure. He was all over the field, and like I said last week, having a real ILB in there makes a huge difference. While he is inconsistent, it was nice to see him out there filling lanes, getting off of blocks, and making plays after watching what we had to watch last week against MIN. Mayo also had 12 tackles along with a half-sack. He did get exposed multiple times in zone coverage, however, and he missed 2 tackles. Mayo played his heart out though and he is a really physical player.
-Janoris Jenkins came out strong for the second week in a row, finishing with 3 tackles / 1 INT / 1 PD. He nearly returned his interception for a touchdown. As he has always been, Jenkins really is amazing with the ball in his hands. I wonder if it is worth trying to give him a touch or two in the return game.
-Deandre Baker is getting more confident and it is easy to see from the all-22 angle. The balance looks better, there are less false steps, less recovery steps. He is also playing more physically and that is one of the best signs indicating the confidence is increasing. Confidence is not important for a cornerback, it is vital.
-Grant Haley had 6 tackles, including 1 TFL. He is still having a hard time sticking to the better slot receivers. While a really good nickel is hard to find, NYG is going to have to try out a new body there at some point this season. Teams have been torching the middle of the field for far too long.
-Jabrill Peppers had 10 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 pressure, but his most notable play was a missed tackle on 3rd down when the score was 14-14. This was the drive after NYG scored a defensive touchdown and the momentum was swinging to NYG. That missed tackle ended up being really costly, as NE scored a touchdown on this possession right before halftime.
-Michael Thomas also missed a tackle on the play noted above. He finished with 6 tackles on the night, one too short. Antoine Bethea had a quiet game and wasn’t contested much, but still found his way to 6 tackles.
-K Aldrick Rosas – No field goals attempted.
-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 39.2 avg / 31.1 net. Second poor week in a row for Dixon.
-LB Alec Ogletree, WR Golden Tate, CB Janoris Jenkins
-QB Daniel Jones, RB Jon Hilliman, OC Jon Halapio
3 THOUGHTS ON NE
- Bill Belichick was hired by the Patriots in 2000. This may be the best defense he has put together over those 20 seasons. NE has never had the #1 ranked defense (yards allowed) but they have had two seasons where they allowed the fewest points. They currently rank #1 in both categories albeit against the easiest schedule in the NFL to date. Opponents aside, the defense, and more specifically the secondary, is in a league in its own right now. Combine that with the Belichick brain, they are going to be so difficult to beat this year.
- Are we finally starting to see Brady show signs of age? I’m not talking about athletically (he’s never been a good one), but his ball has less juice on it and it just seems the accuracy isn’t what it was a couple years ago. This was the fourth time I’ve seen him this year, and minus the cupcake schedule, he looks off.
- One of the most underrated reasons why NE remains competitive year after year is the play of their OL. It is such a rock-solid unit year after year and most fans can’t name 2 of their starters. I remember scouting all of their current starters and the one thing I can say about all of them – they are all gamers. They lack the ideal measurables, but they usually didn’t get beat one-on-one in college, they are blue-collar tough, and they all have high football IQs. The interior of Thuney-Karras-Mason were drafted rounds 3-6-4 respectively. Starting right tackle Marcus Cannon was drafted in the 5th round. They are smart guys who developed within the system. It’s worked out really well for New England.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- While NYG did have it tied up at 14, I’m not sure I understand the narrative that this was a good game. Yes, multiple offensive weapons were on the sideline for this one but NE didn’t play a clean game themselves. NYG was 2-of-10 on 3rd down, they were out-gained by 2:1 in total yardage, and they had a punt blocked. This was an all around ugly game.
- As I always say, I am slow to criticize coaching. There are far too many factors that I don’t have access to, but there are some simple game-management tactics that I just don’t think Shurmur is doing a good job with. The decision to not go for it on 4th-and-2 in the fourth quarter, down 14 points, was mind-numbing. That screams “unprepared” to me.
- I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in regard to the 2020 NFL Draft, but you guys know most of my time right now is spent scouting that class. And I am going to say this right now… the WR talent coming into the league next year is ridiculous. I may have 10+ grades on receivers that are higher than anyone from the 2019 class. That is not an exaggeration. I think it is important NYG really finds out what they have in Slayton and Tate because there may be a talent that is very tough to pass on in the first 2 rounds next April.