The New England Patriots remain undefeated, thanks to another blowout victory — this time, the New York Giants were on the receiving end. Even though the team actually competed well for the first three quarters, the reigning world champions pulled away late behind another excellent defensive outing and an offense that struggled to consistently hit its groove but made enough plays to put the game out of reach and 35-14.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however, and instead take a look at some of the men that stood out during the contest.
Winner: CB Stephon Gilmore
Former Patriot and one-time best cornerback in the NFL, Darrelle Revis took to social media after Thursday night’s game to share his opinion on Stephon Gilmore as “by far is the best corner in the game right now.” His performance against the Giants certainly served as another reminder of that: Gilmore was targeted a combined six times, but surrendered only one completion while breaking up five passes — two of which turning into interceptions (one by himself, one by defensive edge John Simon). All in all, it was a dominant outing.
Winner: RB Brandon Bolden
With Rex Burkhead still out, the Patriots again turned to Brandon Bolden to play a bigger role — and he delivered: he had three runs for 23 yards and a touchdown as well as two catches for 22 yards. His biggest moment of the day, however, might have come on special teams: in the late first quarter, the veteran burst through the line of scrimmage to block a Giants punt that ended up in Chase Winovich’s arms. The rookie returned it for a touchdown and a 7-0 New England lead.
Winners: LB Kyle Van Noy & LB Jamie Collins Sr.
Another week, another outstanding performance by the “Boogeymen.” This time, it was Kyle Van Noy’s and Jamie Collins’ turn to stand out — especially on one play in the fourth period: Collins forced a fumble on a short pass, that was picked up by Van Noy and returned 22 yards for a Patriots touchdown. The score essentially put the game out of reach and was the high point of a game that also saw Van Noy register a sack. Together with Collins and fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower, he again played an enormous role in the victory.
Loser: OT Marshall Newhouse
As opposed to last week’s game in Washington, when he was sacked four times, Tom Brady was sacked thrice on Thursday. Despite the marginal improvement, the blocking up front was still suspect at times — especially when it comes to starting left tackle and Isaiah Wynn stand-in Marshall Newhouse: two of the sacks had his name written on them. The first, a 7-yard takedown in the first quarter, saw Newhouse unable to hold his block long enough; the second saw him focus on the middle of the field instead of kicking out to help tight end Ryan Izzo. Newhouse can have good blocks, but his decision making is wildly inconsistent.
Loser: TE Ryan Izzo
Speaking of Ryan Izzo, the second-year man had a rather inconsistent performance. While catching two passes for 31 yards, he also struggled at times with blocking — not exactly what you want to hear from a player who originally entered New England on the back of his blocking abilities. Izzo gave up the aforementioned sack that resulted in a fumble and defensive touchdown, and also allowed his man to beat him for a tackle for loss on a third down run later in the game.
Winner: WR Julian Edelman
With the Patriots short-handed at wide receiver — Phillip Dorsett was out because of a hamstring injury, Josh Gordon hurt his knee in the second quarter — Tom Brady had to rely on his most experienced pass catcher even more than usual. And as usual, he delivered: Julian Edelman was targeted a team-high 15 times, and came away with nine catches for 113 yards. While he did have a drop and was flagged for offensive holding at one point, the Super Bowl MVP was New England’s most consistent offensive playmaker.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
With the aforementioned Dorsett and Gordon out, undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers saw an increased snap count and showed why he was a standout over the summer: he made some terrific catches while being able to haul in all four of the passes that Brady threw in his direction for a combined 54 yards. While Meyers remains a work in progress, the signs he showed on Thursday certainly were encouraging.
Losers: K Mike Nugent & P Jake Bailey
The Patriots’ kicking operation did not have its best day against the Giants. Kicker Mike Nugent, for example, was brought on the field only once to attempt a field goal — a 40-yarder that hit the left upright — as the team felt more confident attempting fourth downs in New York territory. Yes, he made all five of his extra point attempts but the team did not appear overly confident in his abilities to kick field goals in difficult conditions. Meanwhile, rookie punter Jake Bailey was partially responsible for the missed field goal: he was unable to spin the football around quite enough, resulting in Nugent hitting the laces. Furthermore, he did not properly hit one of his punts and it sailed just 32 yards. All in all, not the best performance by the specialists.