FOXBOROUGH, MA—We always hear talk that a football games lasts for four quarters and that every play is important. Today’s game between the Redskins and Patriots, however, really last just one quarter. It was essentially over after 15 minutes of play.
The Patriots took the opening kickoff and reeled off an 84-yard, 13-play drive that culminated in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman. They did have to convert a fourth down to keep the drive going but other than that it was smooth sailing with just one third down conversion needed. The drive was a good mix of running and passing and Tom Brady, as he so frequently does, made it look easy.
The Redskins didn’t get a chance to respond immediately. Bill Belichick called for a surprise onside kick and the Patriots recovered. Gruden seemed frustrated by the play, saying that it did not catch them by surprise.
“No, [wide receiver] Ryan Grant was right there, it just hit him in the thigh. I don’t what else he can do. He’s just got to recover it. Ball bouncing weird. That’s why they call it pigskin I guess, but Ryan would normally… He was in position, it wasn’t like it surprised him or anything like that he just didn’t recover it.”
So instead of the Redskins having a short field, the Patriots stole an extra possession. They eventually cashed in but not until an exchange of turnovers. First, Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon stripped the ball away from wide receiver Julian Edelman and recovered the ball at the Redskins 26. It was a sudden change and they wanted to take advantage.
The first play was Kirk Cousins pass to Pierre Garçon that was designed to tear off a big chunk of yardage. The ball popped out of Garçon’s hands, bounced into the air, and was hauled in by cornerback Logan Ryan.
It was the first of at least half a dozen drops on the day for the Redskins. You don’t have to read between the lines to figure out that the drops frustrated Gruden.
“Yeah, I mean it’s maddening,” he said. “I can’t explain it. I don’t know why. We had guys that dropped balls that don’t drop balls very often. And I’ll throw it to them again and again and again, and I won’t expect them to drop ever again. It was just one of those days. I don’t know what happened.”
What happened was that after the Garçon drop the Patriots moved in for another touchdown. They got the ball and finished two yards back from where Edelman had fumbled. Six plays later, LaGarrette Blount powered into the end zone from five yards out to make it 14-0.
At that point, with 4:30 left in the first quarter, the Patriots had run 24 plays to just one for the Redskins, had 130 yards of offense to none for the Redskins, had a takeaway and an onside kick recovery, and that 14-0 lead. Even though the Redskins overcame a 24-0 deficit in their last game, the Patriots are at a much higher level than the Bucs are and there wasn’t going to be a comeback on this day.
It’s ridiculous to say a game was over in the first quarter. But this one was.