In a game eerily reminiscent to the Super Bowl that never happened, the Patriots once again failed to close out the fourth quarter against Eli Manning and dropped their second game in a row.
Besides the final drive, the defense played a strong game, applying consistent pressure on Manning and generally shutting down Brandon Jacobs.
However, the offense was inconsistent and Tom Brady simply doesn’t look like the MVP-caliber player he was in 2010.
Special teams is a major concern and the secondary continues to be a letdown.
Here are the risers and fallers this week.
1. Rob Gronkowski: His 2010 line of 42 catches, 546 yards, 10 touchdowns in 16 games was one of the best for a rookie tight end. But his 2011 production at the halfway point is even better: 44/596/6. Gronkowski has become Brady’s most reliable target outside of Wes Welker, and he was unstoppable against the Giants. Gronk showed fantastic concentration and hands to pluck some inaccurate throws, including one down around his shins. He’s more than a red zone threat and a possession receiver because he has the speed to get down the seam and is one of the better blocking tight ends in the league.
2. Wes Welker: While no one expected him to keep up his torrid pace, there was concern after Welker was held to 12 catches for 84 yards against Pittsburgh and Dallas. Facing a depleted Giants secondary, the 5-foot-9 jitterbug posted another 100+ yard game, finishing with nine catches for 136 yards. Welker’s elite route running and quickness make him impossible to cover, and his hands are some of the best in the game.
3. Andre Carter: He didn’t finish with a sack, but the wily veteran continued to put consistent pressure on the quarterback. The team’s leading sack artist recorded a game-high three QB hits and did a solid job in run defense. He probably would have registered a few sacks if not for some non-called holds by Will Beaty.
1. Any receiver not named Welker: Five targets, zero catches. Ochocinco simply is a nonfactor in the Pats offense, and his inability to get on the same page with Brady has severely limited the offense. Teams are jamming Welker and harassing Brady, but no other wide receiver is getting open and making plays. Deion Branch simply doesn’t have the speed or physicality to create separation, Taylor Price hasn’t been able to get on the field and Edelman committed a costly fumble on a punt return. Paging Randy Moss?
2. Stephen Gostowski: The former Pro Bowl kicker missed another easy field goal which would have a huge impact in the loss. Down 17-13, the Patriots had to drive for a touchdown instead of running the clock down and kicking a field goal to ice the game. Instead, the Pats scored a TD to go up 20-17 before Eli Manning led the Giants to the game-winning TD.
3. Sergio Brown: It only took one defensive snap for Brown to earn a spot here, but his pass interference call, whether it was deserved or not, was the final nail in the coffin. He ran right into Victor Cruz near the goal line, allowing the Giants to take the ball from the 1-yard line and score an easy touchdown with little time remaining. Brown has proven he’s no more than a special teamer and his one snap was a backbreaker.