Best and worst: Patriots 27, Giants 26
WORST fan in attendance
Well, well, well . . . look who decided to attend his first Patriots game of the year. None other than that scoundrel Roger Goodell! As if MetLife Stadium isn't already filled with enough awful people, we've got the poster boy showing up. I just hope Tom Brady sees him. I hope he dedicates today's performance to good ol' Goodell. I hope he looks up in Goodell's box after every completion and every touchdown. Middle fingers in the air as he runs down the field to celebrate a touchdown. Brady won't do any of that, because he's Brady. He can't be concerned with the haters.
There is the thought that it's the Patriots against the world. They've gone rogue. Nobody likes them outside of New England. In fact, everybody hates them. Even the NFL commissioner hates them. So when Scott Chandler caught Tom Brady's pass for the first touchdown of the game, his Scott Hall/NWO celebration was something sweet. Scott Hall was an original member of the NWO with Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash. They broke off from WCW and were seen as this rough and tough street gang; a bunch of rebels. They were awesome. That's all you need to know, really.
Well, it didn't take long for the Giants to respond. And they did so in just about the most obvious way possible: With a pass to Odell Beckham Jr. Everybody knows what Beckham is capable of. And now Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty really know. Beckham burned Butler off the line and received a pass from Manning in stride but a little inside. As he caught the pass, he made a move to the inside and caught McCourty going the other direction. Beckham was off and running. All in all it was an 87-yard touchdown grab, the longest the Patriots have given up under Bill Belichick.
WORST sight to see
The Patriots had their first injury scare when Matthew Slater stayed down on the field after punt return coverage. He was grabbing at his arm and we later found out it was a right shoulder injury. Though it looked bad, Slater was back on the field shortly later. Crisis averted . . . until Julian Edelman came up limping later. Edelman made a catch and, in true Edelman fashion, wouldn't go down easily. He limped to the sidelines and trainers were looking at his foot. He then went to the locker room That's a big, big blow to an offense that is already without Dion Lewis.
Things weren't looking good for the Patriots as the Giants marched down the field and found themselves with a first-and-10 from New England's 16-yard line. But that's when Chandler Jones got to Eli Manning and knocked the ball from his arm. Justin Coleman fell on the ball and the Patriots were back in business . . . until they weren't. Unfortunately, they went three-and-out on the ensuing drive. The Giants got ball back, drove 35 yards, and kicked a field goal to tie the game, 10-10.
WORST way to end the half
Yeesh. Dare I say . . . panic? The Patriots are losing. I repeat: The Patriots are losing. And this was a bad drive to allow the Giants. With jut 1:09 remaining in the half, the Giants drove 74 yards thanks in part to a 31-yard pass to Rueben Randle and 32-yard pass to some guy named Will Tye. Will freaking Tye is burning the Patriots secondary and rumbling all the way to the 1-yard line. We have problems. Manning then hits Dwayne Harris in the corner of the end zone as Justin Coleman fell on his face in coverage. Like literally fell on his face leaving Coleman wide open to make the catch and keep his feet in.
Come on, refs! Some real crap officiating today, specifically the phantom pass interference call on Malcolm Butler. Butler breathed on Odell Beckham Jr., forcing him to the ground, and drawing the flag from Ed Hochuli's crew. Roger Goodell is in the building -- I wonder how he feels about all of this? Probably loves it because it's hurting the Patriots. Anyways, the penalty changed what would have been fourth-and-7 on the 41 into first-and-10 from the 20. The Giants kicked a field goal after failing to advance the ball. They now lead by 10 . . . oh boy.
BEST and WORST kick return
Talk about an emotional roller coaster. Danny Amendola with the awesome punt return. Caught it on one side of the field, ran across to the other. Got some huge, huuuuge blocks to free him up and he was off. But Amendola couldn't break the final tackle . . . from his own player. Duron Harmon, for some inexplicable reason, decided to run right into Amendola, and tripped him at about the 10-yard line. What's the deal, bro? There were no more Giants in the area. Get out of the way. Let Dola do his thing. Cripes.
BEST end to the drive
A few LeGarrette Blount rushes later, the Patriots found the end zone. It's a good thing no Patriots were hurt in that series, or Harmon really would have been in the dog house. Big score for the Pats, but it was created by the special teams. We're still looking to see more from the offense without Edelman in there.
WORST time for a fumble
Tom Terrific was not so terrific on this play. Facing pressure from the Giants defensive line (as he has all game because the Patriots offensive line has been dominated), Brady stepped up and reared back to throw. But he was hit hard on the arm and coughed up the football around the Patriots 30-yard line. Giants fell on it. I gotta blame Brady for this despite the O-line stinking it up. He saw and even felt pressure all around him. Can't be that reckless in the pocket. Gotta know when to run with it or fall.
With the Giants taking over at the Patriots 31-yard line, it looked like they were guaranteed at least three points, which would have put the Giants up by nine. But after offsetting penalties, Rob Ninkovich came through with a massive 13-yard sack of Eli Manning. Huge play. Took the Giants out of field-goal range and they were forced to punt three plays later.
BEST New England Tradition
You already know. It's Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. The two hooked up for another touchdown and this one was something else. A whopping 76-yard TD after Gronk made the catch in the middle of the field and broke free after two Giants crashed into each other. The Patriots are now leading. What a game this has become.
WORST Tom Brady
Just when I thought the fumble was going to be Tom Brady's biggest mistake today, he proves me wrong. The Patriots were one yard from extending their-one point lead -- and actually got into the end zone. But a holding call on David Andrews brought the ball back 10 yards. Hands to the face then moved the ball up five yards to the 6-yard line. Then . . . Brady threw an interception on the goal line. Bad throw intended for Brandon LaFell. Awful, awful awful. And the Giants offense will get ball with a chance to score and win the game. Where have we seen this before? . . .
Super Bowl deja vu all over again as Eli Manning marches the Giants offense down the field and picks apart the Patriots. 15 freakin' plays. 86 yards. But . . . it ended in a field goal! Great PBU by Malcolm Butler in the end zone. That gives Brady and the Pats about 1:45 to get into field goal range for the GOAT Stephen Gostkowski. Let's see how this goes . . .
BEST kicker of all-time
When it's all said and done, that will be Stephen Gostkowski's title. You want to argue Adam Vinatieri? I can't say you're wrong. Vinny's got it right now - but Gostkowski is coming for ya. Fifty-four yard field goal to win the game? No problem. People say Gostkowski hasn't hit any big kicks over his career. Well you got your big kick right there. No, it's not a Super Bowl game-winner, but does anybody think he couldn't do it? It's just not fair that the Patriots have the GOAT Tom Brady and the GOAT Stephen Gostkowski.