Defense kept game close
Bettcher’s crew kept Patriots offense in check for awhile
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.”
Quarterback Daniel Jones and the Giants offense couldn’t keep up with the Patriots on Thursday night.