October 12, 2003
Sloppy Patriots Benefit From Giant Mistakes
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- When you consider all that happened in the rain on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, the final score will shock (or "Shockey") you.
First drive of the game. Fresh off a Tyrone Poole pick of a Kerry Collins pass, Mike Cloud runs 14 yards in two carries to the Giant 14. Tom Brady then calls for a screen left, and Cloud takes it to the three. Whoops, call it back, Joe Andruzzi forgot that you invite the rush on a screen pass, and not hold the defender.
Later in the first. Fourth and two at their own 34. Ken Walter lined up in punt formation. Oops, here's Antwan Harris lining up behind Lonie Paxton. He takes the snap and plows forward for the first down. Whoops, call it back, Paxton looked at someone cross-eyed and was called for a false start.
Opening drive of the fourth quarter. Brady hands off to Kevin Faulk. Who hands off to David Patten running right. Who hands off to Troy Brown running left. A triple reverse. Brown streaks down the left sideline and runs for 26 yards. Whoops, call it back, Tom Ashworth forgot that you block guys from the front and not the back.
Late in the game, the Patriots have the ball at their own 41, following a sack of Brady by Michael Strahan (who somehow found this game worth his while to play versus the one for funzies in August), and it was third and 18. Unbelievably, Brady found Brown downfield for 35 yards and a first down. Whoops, call it back, Matt Light got his hands on Kenny Holmes in a way which apparently was a no-no.
In the first half, Brady was 1 of 10 passing for 7 yards. The Patriots had six offensive possessions, which resulted in a missed field goal by Adam Vinatieri from 42 yards, and five straight three-and-out drives. Yet the Patriots marched into the locker room with a 7-3 lead.
Fortunately, the Patriots decided to play one, and only one, quarter of decent offensive football. It really wasn't needed, as things turned out, because if you take away the Patriots' 10 points scored in the third quarter, the Patriots still win 7-6. That's pretty much how things went Sunday at Gillette Quagmire in Foxborough. The New York football Giants put up nice numbers, Collins had a career day, but his side failed miserably when it counted most. The Patriot defense, still in its dilapidated state, had plenty to shut down Tiki Barber, Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer, and walked off the field with a soggy 17-6 win.
If there was ever a game where "Whew, we'll just take the win!" was appropriate, this was it. The defense once again came up big with plays when they were needed, which was more than enough to offset a game filled with ticky tack penalties, dropped passes and a crowd with its thoughts more on the Red Sox than the Patriots.
Don't be surprised if the Patriots don't think a little bit about the Red Sox catch slogan, "Cowboy Up!". Many fans had hats and towels in the crowd with the slogan. Someone may have broken out the barber clippers before this game, as the Patriot defense pretty much did what Mike Timlin and Kevin Millar have preached 21 miles up the road on Yawkey Way. This was a definite "cowboy up" effort from the Patriot defense, and this has pretty much been the way things have gone since Ted Washington, Mike Vrabel and Rosevelt Colvin went down with their injuries.
Maybe the most satisfying element of today's game was the all around play of Rodney Harrison. While his predecessor's team was getting thumped 30-3 at the hands of the 0-4 New York Jets, Harrison picked off two Collins passes, and once again set the tone for hitting during the entire game, much the same way Lawyer Milloy did when he was here. Harrison's first pick came in the second quarter off a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage by Richard Seymour, and his second came late in the game on fourth and six at the Patriot 26, which in effect was the same thing as a missed field goal or a shanked punt.
Poole, who continues to play solidly at right cornerback, struck on the first play of the game as he picked off another deflected pass at the line (this one also tipped by Seymour) and returned it 14 yards to the Giant 28. After Vinatieri's miss, Poole hit Barber at the Giants' 38-yard line and knocked the ball loose. Matt Chatham picked up the ball and rumbled all the way for his first NFL touchdown. This single touchdown would have stood up for a win had the Patriots not finally struck in the third period.
Eugene Wilson had the other interception at the end of the game. With 1:08 left, Collins took the Giants from their 41 to the Patriot 31. Collins then floated one down the left sideline, and the ball went through the arms of Harris before settling into Wilson's. It was a fitting swan song to Collins' day: the final pass was thrown in an area where there were two Patriots and no Giants.
Collins had one of those days where stats really mean nothing at all. He completed 35 of 59 passes for 314 yards, which often times means a killer day given all the offensive weapons he has. But thanks to his four picks and zero touchdowns, his passer rating was only 45.4. Conversely, Brady finished with only 112 yards on 8 of 21 passing, but his rating was 56.1.
If the Patriots had one offensive star, it was Kevin Faulk. He wound up with 87 yards on 14 carries, 50 of them in the third quarter alone. Behind a Damien Woody block, he ripped off a 23-yard run to help set up a 28-yard field goal by Vinatieri to make it 10-3 Patriots. Faulk also had an 18-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Brady was victimized by dropped passes all day long. Two passes that were hauled in helped greatly in the one scoring drive which resulted in an offensive touchdown. Patten made a terrific left sideline grab with William Peterson draped all over him, barely keeping both feet in bounds. The play covered 39 yards and it put the Patriots at the Giant 18. Two plays later, rookie Bethel Johnson ran a crossing pattern and snared a pass over the middle, then took it to the one. Mike Cloud ran it in on the next play and it was 17-3 Patriots.
If you had told Bill Belichick at the beginning of the season that he'd lose the players he has lost and would be 4-2 after six games, he would perhaps tell you that you were crazy. But that's exactly where the Patriots sit, and they are in sole possession of second place in the AFC East behind Miami. Whatever residue from the opening day disaster is completely gone, and the Patriot defense continues to play so well under such lousy circumstances that, if the Patriots do make the playoffs, will carry this team long and far into January.
And the Patriots will take giant mistakes by the other team any day, any time.
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