The Patriots are good at football.
That news certainly doesn’t come as a shocker. Just as many presumed when the season began six weeks ago, another year of New England's empire has brought another year of dominance. That superiority was once again on display Thursday night in a 35–14 win over the New York Giants.
The only difference in 2019? It’s not Tom Brady, Julian Edleman and the offense who have carried the Patriots to a 6–0 start. It’s the defense.
Entering this week’s primetime matchup, New England’s defense ranked first in a whopping 10 categories, including total yards per game allowed (239.0), interceptions (11), sacks (24), opponent passer rating (44.0) and points per game allowed (6.8).
The unit added to those totals against a young Daniel Jones and a depleted Giants offense, picking off the rookie quarterback three times and recovering a fumble for a total of four takeaways on the night. They gave up just ten first downs and held running back Jon Hilliman to 38 rushing yards on 11 carries, stifling New York’s hopes of somehow pulling off the upset.
And they did it from the get-go. After forcing a punt on the Giants’ first drive, linebacker John Simon hauled in the team’s first interception of the night, picking Jones off at New York’s 49-yard line. When Brady threw an interception of his own on the very next play (this one to Janoris Jenkins, who returned it 62 yards the other way), the defense again came to the rescue, forcing a quick three-and-out.
That’s not to say Jones didn’t put in the effort. The 22-year-old signal-caller found Golden Tate for a spot-on, 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter before the Giants’ defense lent him a hand, taking a Brady fumble to the end zone on the ensuing drive. The back-to-back quick plays tied the game momentarily before the Patriots scored before the half to make it 21-14 at intermission.
Still, New England’s defense never flinched. Jones’s momentum faded in a scoreless third quarter, and with 8:43 left to play, Jamie Collins forced a Hilliman fumbled that allowed Kyle Van Noy to break free for a 22-yard scoop-and-score, giving the Patriots a 28–14 advantage.
Sure, Brady’s 334 yards—good enough to help him surpass Peyton Manning for second on the NFL’s all-time passing yardage list—and quarterback sneaks helped add two more scores to the Patriots’ total. And yes, New York was without playmakers Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard on offense.
But even considering they’ve faced Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Allen, Luke Falk, Colt McCoy and Jones under center, the Patriots’ defense is clearly benefiting from Bill Belichick’s expanded role as a defensive play-caller. There are few holes, if any, with a dynamic group of pass rushers in Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Van Noy, and stellar play from Stephon Gilmore and the McCourty twins in the secondary.
And while the Patriots may not be satisfied with the way their offense is playing, they’re lucky to know they have their defense to fall back on when things aren’t clicking.
Because this defense may just be their best one yet.
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