Patriots defense and special teams again save the day versus Giants

With the New England Patriots offense still stuck in first gear, the defense and special teams rose to the occasion to help defeat the New York Giants.

As much as naysayers and New England Patriots haters might still want to resist the idea, this defense is clearly the real deal. For some asinine reason, it’s become somehow fashionable for analysts and fans to add a large asterisk to the end of any compliments or commendations of New England’s dominant defensive and special teams units this season.

“They haven’t played anyone good yet.”

“The takeaways simply aren’t sustainable.”

“Special teams scores and big plays like that are flukey.”

The Patriots are 6-0… the only team in the NFL that can boast that record this week, no matter what happens on Sunday or Monday. Yet you’d think they were a college football powerhouse playing a doctored schedule that features a bunch of Division III cupcakes in a row right now. The combined record of the Patriots’ opponents this season isn’t great at 7-22, but these are still professional football teams.

Moreover, New England didn’t create their own schedule by choice, nor did they choose what division they wanted to play in. The Patriots have consistently set themselves up to face the strongest teams in the other AFC divisions due to their first-place finish every year; if those same teams fall off over the summer, it’s not the Pats’ fault.

Regardless, a six-week sample size is plenty large enough to make some definitive conclusions without any accompanying asterisks or caveats. And while the New England offense remains very much a work in progress (more on that later), the Patriots defense and special teams units deserve every pit of praise they’re getting this season.

Between them, they’ve now scored five of New England’s touchdowns this seasons through six games. For comparison, the New England offense has scored 19 touchdowns during that same timespan. This means that essentially, the Patriots defense and special teams have scored about a third as many touchdowns this season as the offense has… an unreal ratio to consider in today’s NFL.

On Thursday night, it was the rookie Chase Winovich who got the party started for the Pats. He took a blocked punt six yards back to the end zone for his first touchdown since high school. Granted, New York didn’t do itself any favors by punting into one of their own players, but still… a great play’s a great play.

Then in the fourth quarter, a pair of do-it-all linebackers from the Patriots’ “Boogeymen” crew teamed up for New England’s second defensive/special teams TD. Jamie Collins Sr. stripped the ball from Giants running back Jon Hilliman, and Kyle Van Noy was there to pick it up, sprint 22 yards down the field, and fly through the air like Superman – getting just enough of an extension to break the ball against the inside of the pylon.

Throw in a pair of Tom Brady 1-yard quarterback sneaks at the goal line and a Brandon Bolden touchdown run, and the Patriots came out with 35 points and the win.

To their credit, the Giants played inspired football in the first half. If it wasn’t for Brady’s first rushing touchdown with 0:36 left in the second quarter, this game would have shockingly gone to halftime tied.

New England was as high as a -17.0 point favorite over New York in several sportsbooks. Thanks in no small part to another magical and dominant performance from their defense and special teams, the Patriots once again covered a massive betting spread. They also covered against the Miami Dolphins, although they came up just short the following week against the New York Jets.

The competition will certainly get tougher from here on out for the Patriots, which means that sooner rather than later, this offense is going to need to start clicking. Injuries haven’t helped at all, but every team in the NFL has injury hurdles they need to overcome, so that’s hardly a good excuse. The Giants came into this game as battered as they could have been on offense, and they still hung around with the Patriots for the first 30 minutes nonetheless.

New England hits the road in Week 7 to take on that other New York team, the Jets. While Gang Green came up lame in Week 3 versus the Pats, that was on the road and with their third-string quarterback Luke Falk under center. The Jets presumably should be more competitive next week at home now that they have their starting QB Sam Darnold back in the fold.