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Patriots vs. Giants: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 27-26 victory over the New York Giants.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What a weird week for the National Football League.

The Jaguars finally got a road win. The Packers lost at home to the Lions. Jim Caldwell moved, and then he smiled. The Dolphins beat the Eagles in Philly. The Redskins blew out the Saints.

And in perhaps the wildest twist in NFL history, the Patriots beat the Giants.

You almost have to laugh at this point, don't you? I mean how can you not appreciate this on some weird, twisted level? We have all watched the exact same game between these two team four times now, with only the slightest differences separating one from another. It's amazing, really, that in a league built upon unpredictability and the ever-steadfast mantra of Any Given Sunday, the Giants will always give the Patriots absolute fits. This game very, very easily could have been another loss, just as the previous three matchups between these teams could have been a win. It's just nice to finally be on the receiving end of some good fortune for once when it comes to the G-men. Not much you can really do other than just smile and move on.

On to the Fan Notes.

  • From a Patriots fan perspective, this game was a lose-lose all across the board. The Giants win, they officially own New England. The Patriots win, it's "oh well, 18-1 and Mario Manningham, suckers" from the fanbase. And for some reason, knowing that going into this game was oddly comforting.
  • In general, I think this is the most attractive starting lineup the Patriots have ever fielded. Just cuties and lookers all across the board. I don't know if they take physical attractiveness into account when selecting players, but if I found out they did, I wouldn't be surprised. I mean given the crapshoot that is the NFL draft, particularly the later rounds, taking players based on the MCPQ (Marima Cutie Patootie Quotient) seems as viable a strategy as any.
  • After all, it worked out pretty well for them in 2000 and 2009.
  • Lot of tight packages to start the game, bunching receivers and motioning the tight ends around to create better running lanes. The result was, interestingly enough, a strong 1st down run, a weak 2nd down run, and a completion from Tommy B to a shifty white receiver.
  • What an opening drive for the Patriots. Absolutely methodical and dictated almost entirely by what the defense was showing him. 8 plus minutes, 80 yards, ended in six. Can't get much better than that.
  • The Giants seemed to be taking a page out of the 2001 Patriots defensive playbook yesterday in that their primary goal was to knock the Patriots receivers off-balance and take away the reads by putting guys on the ground. Not a bad strategy - unless of course the opposing quarterback is lighting quick when it comes to looking through his progression.
  • And of course the Giants answered right back with the longest touchdown reception allowed in the Bill Belichick era. Of course they did. Any Patriots fan who didn't watch that ODB touchdown and immediately think that the Patriots were going to lose on that exact same play right as the clock expires hasn't been following this team for very long.
  • The momentum shift after that play was palpable. So much wind taken out of New York's sails with the New England TD drive, but it came right back on that catch and the defense responded.
  • New England shied away from the 2-5 Nickel base and went with a more traditional 4-3 package with Chung cheating up into the box as usual, and Chung was an absolute stud yesterday. Other than that bogus DPI call he drew, he was strong at the line and tight in coverage.
  • The defensive star of the day, though, was Malcolm Butler. What a game from that man. Other than the long touchdown reception to Beckham - which was more on Devin McCourty than Butler - Beckham was held to three catches for 17 yards. The Butler/Beckham battle was one of the most enjoyable aspects of watching that game - which is saying something, because I didn't enjoy myself at any point during that one until the clock officially expired.
  • The NFL is trying really, really hard to hype up this Thursday night's matchup between the Jaguars and Titans and it's absolutely hysterical. Take a consistently crappy game and put two crappy teams in a historically crappy division and just try to cram it all down our throats until we buy into the delusion. And you know what the worst part of it is? I'm at least going to have the game on in the background while I'm doing stuff around the apartment. The league wins again.
  • I feel like I should make fun of JPP here for blowing his hand up this past summer. But to be honest, I should have blown myself up multiple times throughout my life and was only saved by the grace of Tebow, so I don't really know if I have a leg to stand on here.
  • Whenever Tommy B makes a throw off his back foot while falling backwards I have a rapid series of very small heart attacks. Those are always either beautiful strikes to an open man or a pick.
  • We're officially in full swing with the holiday season commercials, right on schedule in mid-November.  The early frontrunner for worst holiday ad of 2015 is the Vera Wang diamond commercial. "Finding the perfect girl is hard enough, but finding the perfect ring?"
  • News flash, Vera: a very large part of finding the perfect girl is finding one who loves you for you and couldn't care less if you find the idea of blowing three months salary on a ring is an absolute racket and a huge waste of money that could easily be put towards something practical like a down payment on a house.
  • Oh good. Julian Edeleman is hurt and slammed his helmet into the ground as he came to the bench. That was one of those "man I can't wet to get back out there!" slams, right?
  • And him limping to the locker room was just because he forgot something in there, right?
  • We all know the news by this point: broken foot, likely out 6-8 weeks. The good news here is that Edelman seems poised to possibly return for the playoffs and the Patriots are definitely playoff-bound. And their remaining schedule - Bills, Broncos, Eagles, Texans, Titans, Jets, Dolphins - are all winnable games in which Edelman would be huge to have in, but they can win without him. 14-2 is still more than possible.
  • The bad news is that yesterday's game showed us all just how vital Edelman is to the New England offense. When Dion Lewis went down, the general consensus was that as long as the Patriots had Gronk, Edelman, and Brady, they would be fine. Well one of those three is now down for the count, so it's time for Danny Amendola to step up.
  • I'll also concede that one of the reasons the Patriots struggled without Edelman yesterday was because they had to adjust on the fly as soon as he went down. They have a week now to install a new game plan, which will hopefully help.
  • Jonathan Freeny, man. He's one of those guys who Bill Belichick sees something in him that I really don't. There have been a few of those players over the years where he continues playing a massive liability for reasons nobody but him understands. Freeny was eventually subbed out for Jerod Mayo, which means we all might finally be on the same page. Please come back, Jamie Collins.
  • So...Eli can just huck it up there and his receivers come down with it whenever he plays the Patriots. That isn't a question. It's just a statement. There are plenty of examples to back it up. On the run, under pressure, tosses a prayer down the sidelines, perfect coverage, huge completion, vomit everywhere.
  • The question, however, is why? Why the Pats? What is it about this one team that causes Eli the sudden ability to make those throws? It's the most confusing thing in my life right now next to why George Clooney decided to get married.
  • I think Chandler Jones should make it his utmost goal to surpass the entire Giants team in sacks.
  • When Edelman went down, the Giants wisely shifted their defensive philosophy by playing much closer to the line and getting a lot more aggressive over the middle. To adjust, the Patriots spread the field a little wider and relied more on option routes. Effective when everyone is on the same page, but risky if there's any miscommunication.
  • Just no consistency or flow from the Patriots offense yesterday, particularly in the first half. The discipline fell apart as well, as penalties started to rack up as well.
  • As the first half came to a close, I legit started to see if I was watching a replay of a previous Patriots/Giants game, as the plays that ripped my heart out yesterday looked terrifyingly similar to years past. It's one of those things that would be absolutely mind-boggling if I wasn't used to it by now.
  • One thing that really stood out about yesterday's game was how patient Eli Manning was allowed to be as he picked apart Jonathan Freeny and Justin Coleman. Very smart strategy from the Giants, and that the New England pass rush allowed Manning to have so much time has to be concerning, especially given the state of their own offense line.
  • And then there's Rashaan Melvin. Who are you, where did you come from, why are you on this team, how did you manage to snag the number 24, and what can I do to ensure you don't spend any more time on the field?
  • New York's first dive of the 2nd half was extended by two absolutely atrocious DPI calls that, in years past, would have gotten me all kind of riled up. But after several seasons of calls like that, that's just par for the course. Getting upset over it at this point is just a waste of energy.
  • That said, though, I will still get upset when a DB gets flagged for DPI because he didn't turn his head around. I never went to Pee Wee DB camp - my summer camps were more of the "lose weight and regain some self-esteem" variety - but I don't think it's incorrect to assume that turning your head around is perhaps the second fundamental skill you learn at age 7 or so. It's like the most basic thing you do as a defensive back. Knowing when a pass is headed your receiver's way requires a bit more instinct, but you're a professional cornerback. You figure instinct is something you have at this level. End rant.
  • That bounce off Gronk's foot that was almost picked was the point where I started to resign myself to the fact that maybe the Pats weren't going to win this one. In years past, that ball would have bounced off the helmet of a Giants linebacker as he collided with a safety, they would both go sprawling, and the ball would land perfectly on his back for a DB to pick up and return for a score.
  • I also couldn't shake the feeling that the whole team was completely flat and any offensive urgency that there was seemed to limp back to the locker room with Edelman.
  • Eli Manning's cadence at the line was laugh out loud funny. Words I heard him say at several times throughout the game: salad, legs, buster, Bessie, and Richard. Maybe with his brother getting so much love over Omaha, Eli decided to try and get his own funny pre-snap word. The problem is that Eli probably can't remember what he just said and so every time he goes to the line he thinks up a new word to start using.
  • Anybody who thought the Patriots were actually going to score a TD on the drive following the Amendola drive is lying. That punt return summed up the entire game, in my opinion: great start, impressive, but then completely wet the bed at the end on some stuff that leaves you shaking your head. What was Harmon thinking there?
  • I also expected, on the Blount TD when he began his dive, that he was going to get bounced backwards 10 yards like you see when two idiots run at each other with yoga balls.
  • Why do I get the impression that every time Eli Manning starts to scramble, he makes this noise?
  • The Tommy B strip sack was on LeGarrent Blount, who COMPLETELY missed his blitz pickup. He more or less just watched his man run right by him. Dion Lewis, all 190 pounds of him, would have made that block.
  • The reason I know that is because they decided to replay that strip sack from every possible angle, multiple times, for about a minute. We didn't see that on the Eli Manning strip sack. Just sayin...
  • Perhaps the most underrated play of the game, though, was the sack of Manning by Rob Ninkovich right at the start of the 4th quarter.A 13 yard loss pushed the Giants from the New England 31 to the New England 44 and out of field goal range. If he doesn't make that play, it's most likely a 2 score game and the entire tenor of the rest of the contest is completely different. The best thing about that sack, in my opinion, is that there was nothing fancy about it; just persistence and a strong first step.
  • Brandon Merriweather, going for a huge hit, overpersues and runs right into his own man as the receiver makes the catch for a huge play. If I was writing these Fan Notes a few years ago, I'd be cutting and pasting that line over and over in this space while I lamented the New England defense.
  • What a great slow-mo cut to Tommy B after that Gronk catch and run as well: boom, mother-of-pearl toned bouquet of flowers. Or something like that.
  • Brady with the loooooong look-off on that completion as well to draw the safety off the route. It was almost as if he saw a video of himself and just couldn't look away. Can't say I blame him.
  • We are making progress on these punts, though; the standard illegal block in the back penalty on the Patriots didn't come until the 4th quarter.
  • How great was it to see Roger Goodell coming to a Pats game? I know he was way too busy to show up to the season opener that kicked off the entire NFL 2015 calendar, so it's great that he can find the time to come to a game when the Patriots are playing the team that has handed them their two Super Bowl losses.
  • Is Tom Brady better at the long ball this year than he has ever been? More mobile and better at the long ball at 38? Is that even possible? Maybe Ray Lewis let him borrow some of his deer antler spray.
  • Actually, I should probably delete that last note. If anyone at the NFL sees that who knows how many draft picks it will cost the Patriots.
  • Illegal Hands to the Face is just the worst. That is all.
  • Sometimes I feel like the refs all have a secret side bet over who can blow their whistles the most.
  • How ironic is it that the play that almost ended up costing the Patriots the game, against the freaking Giants, was the exact same play that won them the Super Bowl? Only against this team, I swear.
  • What a horrific series of plays: a Blount TD called back, a sack, a bogus flag, then a pick. Yuck.
  • When the Giants got the ball back on their own three, down one, with six minutes to play, the only thing I couldn't figure out was how they were going to get into field goal range. My initial bet was another long ODB reception, but I didn't rule out a defensive holding call to keep the drive alive or some kind of stumbling, spinning throw that somehow ended up down the back of Ruben Randle's pants.
  • Lots of great yards after contact from the Giants yesterday. Players fell forward and always seemed to pick up another two or three.
  • Aaaaaand the Eli Manning floater to put the Giants in FG range. It's a formula at this point. I'm amazed Vegas even touched this game. If these two teams meet again, the betting line shouldn't be on victory, but rather what the catalyst for the Giants win is. Crazy catch? 10-1 odds. Inexplicable turnover? 15-1. Bogus flag to extend a drive? Even money.
  • I will go to my grave not understanding why the Giants didn't just run three times and kick a field goal when they had a 1st and goal at the 5 with 2:06 to play. I've had it explained to me, several times, why you should go for the TD there and how the clock was going to stop at the two minute warning anyway and so it makes sense to throw on 2nd down and all that stuff. But if the Giants run it and kick a chip shot FG, the Patriots are down two with about a minute to play and no timeouts. Coughlin must be going senile.
  • That, or the Patriots must have cheated by hacking into the Giants radio system and calling in the wrong plays. Zero percent chance that Eli Manning could recognize Bill Belichick doing a Tom Coughlin impression.
  • You can picture it, can't you? "yes, um...Eli...this is coach Coughlin here. We're going to throw it. Yeah, that's it...throw it. No no no, no need to run it here. Just throw it three times and then I have a nice red ball you can bounce afterwards."
  • I actually had a Giants fan mention how if Landon Collins doesn't drop that pick, the Giants win, so how can I take any pride in this victory? Those were actual words out of the mouth of a Giants fan who, I'm guessing, watched Wes Welker piss the 2011 Super Bowl down the toilet a few years ago. Crazy.
  • I texted a friend of mine, as the Patriots were set to receive the kickoff with 1:47 left to play, "what are the odds that the Pats drive into FG range and Ghost shanks it?" I just figured that would be a fitting end to this game. The knock on Stephen Gostkowski was that he has never really had to make a clutch, difficult to convert kick to win a game before. The only opportunity he ever really had was in the 2012 home opener against the Arizona Cardinals, when he shanked a 42 yarder wide left. He had made a few game-winning/tying kicks before, but they were all relative chip shots and high probability kicks. This one, from 54 yards out, with a wind blowing, on the road, against the Giants, with six seconds to play, is probably the clutchiest situation a Patriots kicker has been in since Adam Vinatieri in the Super Bowl.
  • And I'm not going to lie - I thought he was going to miss it. I did. I'm not going to be like that Texans fan in the Hyundai commercial and say that I never doubted it. I really thought he was going to miss it.
  • And then the kick was dead on center...and started to veer left. It was primed to bounce right off the upright to signal my own death knell. It just kept curving left...but it went in. And this was me.
  • Imagine my absolute horror when I got up from the floor, picked up my heart, lungs, and intestines, shoved them back into my body, and discovered that there was still one second on the clock. There was still time for the Giants to win the game.
  • And they had a chance for a while. The ball inexplicably flipped up into the air and made it all the way across the field, where there was some daylight. A lot of bobbles, some more flips, and then finally a step out of bounds to end it. Who knows what would have happened if the out of bounds line was an inch wider.
  • Man...the Patriots sure did get lucky yesterday, didn't they? Lady Luck was really on their side with that dropped interception. Maybe one day the Giants will know what it's like to get a few lucky bounces and a miracle catch or two.

What can you do. It's the G-men. This is just what they do to the Patriots. You can try and make excuses and talk about bogus flags or injuries and all that good stuff, but at the end of the day the Giants just beat the Patriots. It's simply the way it is. The media is going to worship Peyton Manning, Roger Goodell is going to run the NFL into the ground, and Patriots fans are going to have a heart attack every time these two teams play. No sense hiding from reality. We just have to smile, shrug our shoulders, tip our caps to Eli and Coughlin, and get back to dominating the AFC while praying that we don't see this team again in February.

9-0. Nothing wrong with that. Bring on Buffalo.