De­fense kept game close

Bettcher’s crew kept Pa­tri­ots of­fense in check for awhile

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Pat Leonard

FOXBOROUGH — The Gi­ants’ de­fense was the only rea­son that Thurs­day night’s visit to Gil­lette Sta­dium was com­pet­i­tive.

James Bettcher’s group played their best game to date.

“They gave us a chance to win the game,” Pat Shur­mur said.

And though their ef­fort was wasted in a 35-14 loss, it pro­vided a blue­print of what they now can ex­pect of them­selves as the Gi­ants (2-4) pre­pare to host the Car­di­nals in Week 7.

“There ain’t no moral vic­to­ries. There ain’t no ex­cuses,” strong safety Michael Thomas said. “But this is the stan­dard from here on out. We gotta go and cor­rect the self-in­flicted plays, the men­tal mis­takes or mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tions. But how we played to­day, how hard we played and how we bat­tled and made plays, that’s the stan­dard from here on out.

“We clean up the rest of the stuff, that’s how we’re gonna play, and it’s on us to hold our­selves to that stan­dard.”

Here’s what the stan­dard looked like Thurs­day: Un­til a garbage time tack-on TD, the Gi­ants’ D gave up only 14 points, in­clud­ing just one full-field Pa­tri­ots drive, and scored its own TD on a Markus Golden 42-yard fum­ble re­turn.

Lorenzo Carter’s strip sack of Tom Brady, beat­ing tight end Ryan Izzo on the pass rush, sprung Golden for the score at 4:38 of the sec­ond quar­ter to tie the game at 14 apiece.

“It was huge,” Carter said. “We knew we were gonna need some plays on de­fense to help us win this game, so we came out with the mind­set that we had to do it on D. And we fought hard and just came up a lit­tle short. They made more plays than us. S—-, that’s how you win games.”

The de­fense opened the game by forc­ing a Pa­tri­ots turnover on downs, led by Dalvin Tom­lin­son, who was lead­ing an im­pres­sive de­fen­sive front. Then they forced Brady’s of­fense to go three-and-out, then Janoris Jenk­ins in­ter­cepted Brady on the next drive.

Thomas stripped Pats re­ceiver Ju­lian Edel­man on the fourth drive for a fum­ble re­cov­ery at the Pa­tri­ots’ 38-yard line with the game score­less. But the Gi­ants were robbed by the of­fi­cials.

The play was ruled an in­com­plete pass on the field and up­held af­ter Pat Shur­mur chal­lenged the call and sent the re­view to head of of­fi­ci­at­ing Al Riveron in New York.

Thomas was in­cred­u­lous. “Stole money from me,” he said, re­fer­ring to player bonuses for stats. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn’t hear any­thing. I just know that’s a big play for me and it’s un­for­tu­nate that it won’t count. I want the forced fum­ble and the fum­ble re­cov­ery.”

Never mind. The Gi­ants de­fense forced a Pa­tri­ots punt any­way. New Eng­land only was able to open the scor­ing thanks to a blocked punt TD re­turn. Run­ning back Bran­don Bolden shoved Gi­ants line­backer Nate Stu­par (Penn State) back into Ri­ley Dixon’s punt, and Chase Wi­novich caught the ball for a 6-yard TD re­turn.

“You could feel the mo­men­tum shift,” cen­ter Jon Hala­pio ad­mit­ted of the blocked punt TD. “But we didn’t fold. We just kept fight­ing.”

Daniel Jones’ sec­ond in­ter­cep­tion put the de­fense be­hind the eight-ball, down, 7-0. The Pa­tri­ots punched in a Bran­don Bolden rush­ing TD.

The key play was a 23-yard Brady pass to Jakobi Mey­ers, vic­tim­iz­ing Gi­ants’ slot corner Grant Ha­ley, who had a tough night.

At a tie score, the Gi­ants de­fense did sur­ren­der a 75-yard touch­down drive to fall be­hind 21-14 at half­time. One of the key plays again was a 23-yard Brady pass to Mey­ers de­fended by Ha­ley, fol­lowed by a 12-yard James White catch to the 1-yard line that saw lit­tle help from the en­tire sec­ondary.

Brady capped it with the first of two 1-yard TD runs. But the Gi­ants would not sur­ren­der an­other point un­til 8:33 re­mained in the fourth quar­ter, and the Pa­tri­ots scored it de­fen­sively: Kyle Van Noy’s 22-yard fum­ble re­turn for a TD. Jamie Collins forced the Jon Hil­li­man fum­ble when Kevin Zeitler couldn’t get to Collins in time for his block.

The Gi­ants’ de­fense had done their job. But also, it wasn’t enough.

“We knew the team we were play­ing. The Pa­tri­ots. Good team all around. They score on de­fense. It was just a chal­lenge. We can’t let their de­fense out­play us,” Carter said. “But s—-, we just didn’t fin­ish.”

ADAM GLANZMAN/GETTY

Quar­ter­back Daniel Jones and the Gi­ants of­fense couldn’t keep up with the Pa­tri­ots on Thurs­day night.

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