Phil Perry's Report Card: Good outweighs bad for Brady vs. Giants
The Patriots lost their top tight end, their top outside-the-numbers receiver and their only fullback. They were stuck with one personnel package for the entire second half, playing a pair of undrafted rookies on every snap. Offensively it wasn't always pretty, but with a dominant defensive showing, it was enough to take down the Giants.
Let's get to the grades to see how each position group stacked up...
For every head-scratching throw, there was at least one beauty. So while it comes as no surprise that throws like Tom Brady's interception intended for Julian Edelman and his near-pick to Edelman in the front corner of the end zone stand out, the throws like his seam ball to Edelman late in the game and his back-shoulder throw to Jakobi Meyers in the second quarter were just as noteworthy. With a limited cast around him, Brady, much like the Patriots offense as a whole, was good enough to earn a solid "B."
RUNNING BACK: B+
There are a few moments in a game when running the football carries true value: at the goal line, in non-goal line short-yardage spots, and at the ends of games. It wasn't Sony Michel's best day, but helped kill the game off at the end by running with power and staying in bounds. At the goal line, the Patriots actually turned to Brandon Bolden instead of Michel, and he came away with a score. James White was once again a critical piece in the passing game, racking up 46 yards on nine catches. All three backs actually contributed in the passing game -- something the Patriots needed with so many weapons down -- combining for 95 yards receiving on 13 catches.
Kudos to Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski for being as well-prepared as they were after a week when the Patriots hardly practiced. They were not flagged for any penalties and they caught six of the seven targets sent their way for 88 yards. Meyers made a tremendous back-shoulder grab to set up the Patriots with a goal-line situation, and Olszewski had a pair of nice catches -- one on a deep in-cut that he ran adeptly versus zone and one on a swing pass out of the backfield that went for five yards. Julian Edelman was a monster with nine catches on 15 targets for 113 yards, including a savvy stop-and-go move against double coverage that saw him run a rare vertical seam route usually reserved for others. He did have two drops, though, and he was called for a holding penalty, which prevented this grade from being much higher.
TIGHT END: C-
Tom Brady could've stepped up in the pocket. He could've rid himself of the football sooner. He held it for about three seconds before he was strip-sacked -- the strip-sack that eventually went for a Giants touchdown -- but Ryan Izzo was the one tasked with slowing down Lorenzo Carter off the edge and he couldn't. That call might be on the Patriots staff; it's rarely a good idea to have any tight end trying to stop an edge rusher. But Izzo provided little resistance. Izzo made a couple of grabs for 31 yards, but he's still a work-in-progress in the run game.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
The Patriots averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on the night, but when Tom Brady's sneaks are removed from the equation then the offensive line helped Patriots backs run for exactly 4.0 yards per carry. That's not anything to necessarily write home about, but it's not an out-and-out disaster, either. Two of the three sacks Brady absorbed came courtesy of the left side of the offensive line, but otherwise the protection held up. He was pressured just eight times on 44 drop-backs. That was enough to allow Brady to stand tall and hit on 31 of his 41 throws for 334 yards.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
The Giants had no success on the ground Thursday, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, led in part by Danny Shelton and Deatrich Wise -- both of whom had multiple run stuffs. This group also made an impact in the passing game as Shelton's hit on Daniel Jones helped force an errant throw that led to a Duron Harmon pick. Meanwhile, Wise picked up a pair of quarterback hits and one hurry, continuing his stretch of highly-efficient play. In just 75 snaps this year, he has a sack, five hits and six hurries. That's a pressure every 6.25 snaps, which is tops on the team. (Kyle Van Noy has a pressure every 9.9 snaps; Chase Winovich has one every 14.25 snaps; Jamie Collins has one every 21.8 snaps.)
Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy combined to provide the Patriots with the "Turning Point" this week. Collins forced a Jonathan Hilliman fumble with a perfectly-placed shot on the ball after having sniffed out a screen. Van Noy then looped around, found the loose ball and took it in for a score. Van Noy finished with a whopping six hurries as well as a sack and a quarterback hit. Collins and Ja'Whaun Bentley also had pressures of their own. Dont'a Hightower checked in with a hit, a hurry, and a blown-up screen that highlighted his instincts and impressive change-of-direction ability for someone his size.
The only blemish on the record for this group was a 64-yard touchdown reception by Golden Tate. Hard to blame Jonathan Jones, who played the football as he's taught when "in phase," meaning stride-for-stride with his coverage assignment. In those situations, the Patriots want their defensive backs to play the football as though they are receivers. Jones got his hand on the football, but it still landed in Tate's hands. Duron Harmon then had his angle out-run by Tate down the sideline. Otherwise, Patriots defensive backs were nearly flawless. Stephon Gilmore had an easy pick and four pass breakups. Jones ended up with two breakups of his own on seven targets. Daniel Jones averaged just 5.2 yards per attempt thanks in large part to the sticky man coverage he faced all night.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
This was actually among the toughest grades to determine of the season thus far. Why? The Patriots had another game-changing play in the kicking game when they blocked a Giants punt and returned it for a score. Hard to give anything outside of the "A" range when that happens. But it was far from a perfect day. Jake Bailey had a bad hold -- laces in -- that likely contributed to Mike Nugent's missed field goal. Bailey also had a short 32-yard punt early in the game that was likely impacted by the wind, but it looked more like it came off his foot awkwardly. He had other lengthier punts over the course of the game when the wind was still whipping.