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Game Observations: Defense keeps dominating as Patriots dispatch Giants

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Short week, same story for the 2019 Patriots. The offense struggled to find their rhythm but the defense and special teams made the splash plays to spark a 35-14 victory over the Giants. Now 6-0 for just the fourth time in team history, the Pats have an extended break until next Monday and to be sure, they can use the time off.

Injuries hit New England hard in this one, as both Josh Gordon and Patrick Chung left the game and did not return. They were just the headliners as the blue medical tent was popping up and down all game long.

The break should also give the offense a chance to regroup. Despite their record, the Patriots have not been able to piece together any kind of consistency or find an effective identity that they can rely on. After Julian Edelman and James White there’s just a long list of question marks.

But the offense hasn’t cost them yet because the defense has been historically good. Every stalled drive is almost always quickly turned around into a new possession in just a matter of a few plays, if not sooner via takeaway.

Now, with a chance to catch their breath, hopefully the 2019 Pats can find a way to get healthy and become a fully complementary team as they prepare for a three-game set prior to their bye week.

Here are the rest of the observations from the Thursday night win.

-The Patriots offense opened by leaning into their 22 personnel package and it paid off with a nice 19-yard pass to Sony Michel as the Giants were looking for the run. Tom Brady passed Peyton Manning for second all-time in passing yards on the play. Loved to see Michel getting going in the passing game out of the gate, but he then had three-straight runs and didn’t get much, getting stopped on fourth-down. It was a sputtering start for the running game after a promising play in the passing game, a trend that would continue throughout the game.

-The offense struggled to get going early, with Brady getting sacked on the second possession, then throwing a bad interception on the third, but the defense kept picking them up. First came John Simon’s interception and then a forced three-and-out after the Brady pick. Maybe it was just Thursday Night Football but we’ve seen too much of the offense looking like this.

-It was the special teams getting things really started though, as Brandon Bolden got great push on a Giants punt and Chase Winovich caught the deflected ball and took it to the house for a touchdown. This is the 2019 Patriots in a nutshell, nothing doing offensively but the defense and special teams made the stops and the score to get the lead. Winovich has been eased in as a pass rusher and on special teams but even in a limited role he’s showing up and making plays.

-With Matt LaCosse leaving the game with a knee injury it allowed Gunner Olszewski to get his first real chance playing some offense. He came through with his first catch and showed good quickness overall. Not sure if the rookie has a long-term offensive role, but he made the most of his limited opportunity, which again might’ve been largely just due to injuries. He’d add a 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter.

-The offensive struggles continued into the second quarter but once again the defense came through, with a terrible throw by Daniel Jones that was intercepted by Duron Harmon. The Patriots took over at the Giants 20. After a nice catch by Jakobi Meyers set the Pats up on the one-yard-line it still took three-straight runs to finally get into the end zone, including a stuffed Brady sneak if you wanted to know how things are going for the offense right now.

-The defense did allow their first passing touchdown of the season on a 64-yard pass to Golden Tate. Tate had a step on Jonathan Jones and then outran Duron Harmon. It’s a weird feeling to see the defense give up a big scoring play, they’ve earned so much goodwill from their stellar play it was just kind of like “well, whatever.” That’s the risk you take playing so aggressively and the Pats got burned this time due to a really close and well-made play.

-Patrick Chung left the game with a chest injury and his presence was missed. Chung does so much for the defense, primarily being able to play a linebacker role that gives them so much flexibility. After missing last week with a heel injury this new chest issue will be something to monitor. Chung is really getting banged up.

-The Giants would tie the game up at 14 with a sack and forced fumble that was returned 42 yards for a touchdown. To make matters worse Josh Gordon was injured on the play and it looked serious, though he emerged from the blue medical tent, hopped on a bike and looked like he was okay. The Patriots can hardly afford to lose Gordon from their already-struggling offense.

-The Patriots response before halftime was fairly impressive, bouncing back after the fumble and Gordon injury with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by the Brady sneak that eluded them the first time. It wasn’t a work of art, but it was effective and needed, and after the first half performance they had it was at least a marginally encouraging drive.

-The Giants showed some poise and moved the ball to open the second half but once again the Patriots defense came up with a big play as Stephon Gilmore grabbed the third interception of the game. Gilmore continues to make it look easy and show why he’s among the best corners in the league. It was the Patriots league-leading 14th interception of the year, twice as many as any other team.

-Brandon Bolden didn’t get much fanfare when he re-signed with the Pats after a year in Miami but he has shown how valuable he is with his third-straight game with a touchdown. He returns kicks, he makes big plays on special teams and he was the most effective running back in this game.

-The Patriots put together a grinding 16-play third quarter drive that ended with a missed field goal that bonked off the upright. Feels like it’s not a 2019 Patriots game unless there’s a missed kick. This one looked like Jake Bailey had the laces in.

-The defense continued to pour it on in the fourth quarter as a Jamie Collins forced fumble was returned for a touchdown by Kyle Van Noy, making it a two-score game. It was the perfect punctuation point on this game, as it was the defense that carried the team to their sixth win.

-Despite the overall sporadic offense, Julian Edelman had his 13th 100-yard game, capped off by a nice 36-yard catch that set up the Pats final score of the game. On an offense with a lot of questions, Edelman is not one. He’s still the reliable offensive engine he’s been since 2013.

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