Tom Brady, Patriots bailed out by D on way to 6-0 start

NFL

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots‘ offense, led by quarterback Tom Brady, still isn’t clicking. Thankfully for the unit, the defense and special teams make game-changing plays that continue to buy the Patriots more time.

That’s what it took in Thursday night’s 35-14 victory over the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery brought back for a score supplemented an offense that was hurt by two of Brady’s mistakes (interception, strip sack returned for touchdown).

It marked the third consecutive game Brady has turned the ball over. His turnovers in the previous two games had been in the red zone, which he called unacceptable, and he acknowledged that the offense has to raise its level to where the defense finds itself.

With a road trip to the New York Jets next on the schedule, there’s still time for the 6-0 Patriots to work through the issues, but some stiffer competition awaits down the line.

Describe the game in two words: Personnel attrition. Tight end Matt LaCosse (knee), safety Patrick Chung (chest), wide receiver Josh Gordon (knee), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) and fullback Jakob Johnson (shoulder) all left the game because of injuries.

Buying a breakout performance: This might be the best defense in Bill Belichick’s 20 years as head coach. The defense and special-teams units have scored 35 points from five touchdowns.

Troubling trend: Another missed field goal, this time from 40 yards for Mike Nugent. The Patriots also passed up a 49-yard field goal with the wind in the fourth quarter, instead going for it on fourth-and-5. Would they have made the same decision if Stephen Gostkowski was not on injured reserve? Nugent did make five extra points.

Eye-popping NextGen Stat: The 64-yard touchdown pass from Giants quarterback Daniel Jones to receiver Golden Tate came against tight coverage from cornerback Jonathan Jones. The pass had an air distance of 35.5 yards and a target separation of 0.62 yards. It was the second-longest tight-window completion against the Patriots this season (Bills quarterback Josh Allen‘s 37.9 air distance to tight end Dawson Knox came in Week 4).

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