The New England Patriots faced some real adversity for the first time all season in defeating the New York Giants Sunday afternoon. The Giants played the 9-0 Patriots very well, as it seems they always do. Eli Manning and Coach Tom Coughlin are the only quarterback and head coach duo to stump the Pats more than once, handing the Patriots both of their Super Bowl losses in 2007 and 2012.
Coming into Sunday’s game, the Patriots were already banged up and missing some key factors. They only added to that list in their big win. Deion Lewis, Nate Solder and now Julian Edelman all are injured and won’t be playing for quite some time. Lewis and Solder are on the injured reserve, making them ineligible to return this season. Edelman suffered a broken foot in the second quarter of Sunday’s showdown and has a chance to return this season as he will underwent surgery on that broken foot Monday.
Even without these key offensive players, the Patriots’ offense was still very elite in Sunday’s game. Danny Amendola sparked the Pats with his unbelievable punt return for a near-touchdown before he was accidentally tackled by his teammate Duron Harmon. With just under two minutes left in the game, New York was ahead 25-24. Tom Brady and the Patriots needed to storm down the field and get into field goal range for kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The Patriots’ first three passes were incomplete and then they were faced with a 4th and ten on their own 20 yard line. Amendola got open and got the Patriots a game-saving first down. They then stormed down the field and set up Gostkowski for a 54-yard field goal. Before the kick I thought to myself, when was the last time Gostkowski had to kick a game winner or even a big time kick to impact a game? On November 30, 2014, the Patriots were in Green Bay taking on the Packers. Down 10 points in the 4th quarter, Gostkowski missed a 44-yard field goal that then gave the Packers the ball back with great field position. The Patriots ended up losing that game 26-21.
So as Gostkowski lines up for this field goal against the Giants Sunday, outside and weather being cold, there were many similarities to the last time he missed in Green Bay. I was unsure if he would hit such a pressure kick. The snap was great, the hold was good and the kick was up and in. Gostkowski sealed the victory for the Patriots and ended the conversation about whether he can make big time kicks.
The Denver Broncos are 7-2 and seem to be the Patriots’ only real competition in the AFC. With Peyton Manning having an injured foot, and showing it in his play, this should be the last year of his career. Manning isn’t making basic NFL throws that need to be made. The Patriots should have no trouble beating the Broncos, even if the game is in Denver. If all goes to plan, the Patriots should be the number one seed in the playoffs and it’s certainly not easy to beat the Patriots in Foxboro.