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What we learned from Patriots' win over Giants

*There was no 18-1 miracle to be had on Thursday night. The New England Patriots (6-0) forced four turnovers and scored twice off defense and special teams in a 35-14 mid-week win over the New York Giants (2-4) to stay undefeated. Here's what we learned from the win: *

  1. Is the 2019 Patriots defense the greatest of all-time? That was the question before, during and after New England's romp over New York, during which the Patriots returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, took a fumble to the house, recorded three picks and gave up just seven points. Against yet another limp offense in the Giants, New England's defense did what it was supposed to, as it had against the last five limp offenses it has faced. But you can't blame the Patriots for their schedule. Against teams with a combined record of 7-22, New England has racked up 14 interceptions and 16 total takeaways and estbalished a plus-142 point differential. Led by Stephon Gilmore (five passes defensed!, INT), Kyle Van Noy (sack, TD return) and rookie edge presence Chase Winovich (punt-block TD), players at all levels, the Patriots are playing their best when they need it the most. This was a one-score game into the fourth quarter before New England salted the game away with a forced fumble of Jon Hilliman, one that exemplified the Pats' team defense. On third-and-9, Duron Harmon blitzed off the left, forcing Daniel Jones to rush a screen pass to Hilliman. Jamie Collins punched the ball out behind the line of scrimmage, and following a scrum, Van Noy appeared with the ball, sprinting down the sideline and leaping over a diving Jones to make it a two-score game and secure the Pats victory. That's the Boogymen defense; the Patriots lull you to sleep and smother you when you least expect.
  1. Welcome to the NFL champs, rookie. Daniel Jones' prime-time debut went mostly as expected, a pretty throw or two amidst a slew of misses, poor decisions and turnovers. Against an historic Patriots defense, Jones took too many shots into tight windows, as he has been wont to do this season, and tossed three interceptions against the league's sharpest secondary. His first pick barely had a chance to find a blanketed Golden Tate and was tipped into John Simon's hands. On his second, Jones held the ball for over six seconds and still had his elbow hit before lofting a duck into the arms of Harmon. The Giants had an opportunity to pull even out of the half, down just one score, and driving, but Jones then launched his third interception, completely missing Gilmore on the sideline as he attempted an out pattern toward Rhett Ellison. There are many ready-made excuses for Jones' performance on Thursday; with only Tate as a bona fide pass-catcher and playing in his first prime-time game against a defense bandied about as the 21st century's greatest, Jones never had a chance. But he did, and he blew them. Dimes defenders, take solace in this: The rookie's pristine touchdown pass to Golden Tate broke New England's streak of not allowing a passing score. There's that.
  1. It wasn't Tom Brady's finest effort, but on a night when he made history by passing Peyton Manning for second on the all-time passing yards list, Brady made some odd history in his own record books. Thursday night's win marked the first time that Brady failed to throw a touchdown, threw a pick, lost a fumble and rushed for at least one score. (In fact, he ran for two!) A unique evening for all who bore witness, Brady also saw an unusual amount of pressure from a previously unremarkable Giants pass rush; the Patriots QB was sacked thrice and hit six times. His first-quarter interception that squandered a scoring opportunity and nearly set up the Giants to score was also thrown way behind Julian Edelman. Blame the wind. Blame the short week. Blame whatever you want. Brady and the Patriots offense was not in sync on Thursday... And yet, the future Hall of Famer completed nearly 75 percent of his passes for 334 yards and New England won by three scores. Carry on.
  1. Much was made during pregame festivities about New York's shortage of skill-position players. No Saquon, Gallman, Engram or Shepard?! The Giants shouldn't even show up. But across the field, New England was suffering from a similar issue. Without Phillip Dorsett and Rex Burkhead to start, the Pats also lost Josh Gordon for the second half, throwing Gunner Olszewski into a near-every-down role. Add onto that New England using an extra tight end (Ryan Izzo) to help out Marshall Newhouse at left tackle, and the Patriots were hamstrung on offense as well. The bodies kept dropping throughout the game, too. J.C. Jackson, Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, John Simon and Devin McCourty all spent time in and around the blue medical tent. New England's depth is unrivaled, but more nights like this one could thin the ranks.
  1. Are you happy, Golden Tate? In his second game back from suspension, the Giants receiver finally saw some action. Tate, who mused after Week 5's loss that he wished his role would increase, got his wish against New England. Not that Jones had any choice to target Tate with New York's skill positions so bare. The YAC-master caught six passes on eight targets or 102 yards, the most significant came on a 64-yard TD catch-and-run down the seam on Jonathan Jones. It was New England's first passing TD allowed all season, and Tate's first TD reception since Week 13 of 2018 while with the Eagles. A small victory for the veteran, who will surely enjoy the presence of his colleagues next week.
  1. New England's kicker situation is dire, and it's putting Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels in difficult positions. Three times on this windy night in Foxborough, the Patriots opted to go for it on fourth down in Giants territory instead of have Mike Nugent attempt a field goal. New England failed to pick up the first down on all three plays, though one conversion was granted on penalty. Funny though, the Pats were right to not trust the 37-year-old kicker. After missing an extra point last week, Nugent hit all five of his extra points, but missed a 40-yard FG that would have put New England up two scores in the third quarter. Without Adam Vinatieri or Stephen Gostkowski for the first time in the Belichick era, the Patriots could tap the kicker well again during their long week off.
  1. How long can New England stay undefeated? At least one more week, as the Pats get the Jets next Monday night. But after that, New England faces the frisky Browns, Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs over the next seven weeks with a bye stuck in there somewhere. If the Patriots stay perfect through that gauntlet, perhaps those early-autumn conversations about the greatest defense (and team) of all time will prove prescient.
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