If there was fear that history would repeat itself, this game certainly reinforced that. This was the perfect storm for the Patriots to be defeated with a road game against a well-coached team and a good quarterback. The offensive line and RB corps was decimated at the start of the game and lost their best pass catcher in Julian Edelman after one quarter. The Patriots offense came back down to earth and for the first time this season looked vulnerable. On the other side of the ball, the Giants hit on a big TD on their opening drive and their passing game was able to click despite playing nearly 1-dimensional all game. Despite all of that, the Patriots were able to steal a last secondary victory with a 54-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The main heros for this game included CB Malcolm Butler, WR Danny Amendola, and TE Rob Gronkowski.
The adversity really started to hit after the Patriots had a perfect opening drive that drained the clock and resulted in a Scott Chandler TD. Following a Giants special teams penalty, they had them pinned inside the 15. Then Eli Manning was able to find Odell Beckham Jr. up the far sideline for a big gain that turned into a touchdown when McCourty took the worse pursuit angle of his career. After that point, the Patriots only allowed 1 more touchdown for the rest of the game. The Patriots were able to limit Beckham from that point forward, as Malcolm Butler tightened the straps. The defense did a phenomenal job of keeping the Patriots in the game. On the Giants' final drive, Butler was beat by OBJ on a fade route, but was able to stick with the play and force the ball out before Beckham could establish possession. That play wound up playing huge in the game because the Giants could not kill enough clock to keep Brady from getting into FG rnage.
The Patriots offense struggled mightily in the 2nd and 3rd quarter after losing their key receiver. With Edelman out of the game, the player who stepped up for this game was Danny Amendola. Amendola was effective as both a possession receiver and delivered a momentum-changing punt return that would have been a TD had Duron Harmon gotten out of his way. Amendola delivered in the clutch when the Patriots needed to convert a 4th and 10 on the final drive and then made the final catch that put the Patriots in FG range. Even though the Patriots overpaid for Amendola when they signed him in 2013, he's saved the Patriots countless times already.
Another huge play in the game was when Rob Gronkowski gave the Patriots a 24-23 lead. The Patriots had just gotten the ball back after the defense was able to push the Giants out of field goal range following a Brady fumble. The Patriots pass rush was largely ineffective due to the up-tempo pace of the Giants offense, but were able to make enough critical plays to force the Giants to kick field goals. The Patriots had the ball at the 20 and finally were able to hit on a play to Gronk, who was isolated against the safety, Brandon Meriweather. Gronk beat him on the fade route and Brady is able to throw it over the top to Gronk to shield him from the Single High safety, who wound up taking out his teammate. Gronk was able to run to the rest of the end zone unimpeded.
Finally comes the NFL's best kicker in Stephen Gostkowski. Gostkowski had to kick a 54 yarder from the left hash with the game on the line. Gostkowski didn't have as many game-winning chances as Adam Vinatieri did in a Patriots uniform. Like he always does, Gostkowski made the attempt, although it was close to hitting the left upright. Unfortunately, my phone was dead so I couldn't make my weekly Gost is money tweet. Gost has had the impossible challenge of replacing a legend, but he has not only replaced him, he has turned out to be even better. He's now 17/21 on 50+ yard FG attempts, which is best in NFL history.