It was the second that saved the New England Patriots undefeated season, and it came right before the two-minute warning. The Patriots led 24-23, but the New York Giants were on the doorstep, inside the ten-yard line. With 2:06 to play, Eli Manning lofted a pass to Odell Beckham in the left corner of the end zone. Beckham had the ball, failed to maintain control, and the pass was incomplete—with 2:01 left on the clock.
The fact Beckham was unable to maintain possession long enough for the touchdown to count was big enough, but the fact the clock didn’t reach the two-minute warning was significant at the time and would ultimately be game-deciding. The whole reason behind throwing the ball with 2:06 left is that you assume even with an incompletion, the clock is going to stop at the two-minute mark. Instead, the Patriots saved a timeout.
After the Giants settled for a field goal and a 26-24 lead, that was the difference. Tom Brady drove the Patriots to the very fringe of field-goal range, to the 37, where Stephen Gotkowski nailed a 54-yard field goal to win the game.
I’m going to assume the home team controls the clock—logic would tell you the NFL would have a neutral party do it, but this exorbitantly rich league does everything on the cheap—so in that light, can Giants coach Tom Coughlin pin the loss on the clock keeper? Not that stopping it at 2:01 was a mistake, but what happened to a little old-fashioned home-cookin’? Coughlin might need to give his clock operator a Michael Corleone-esque “Don’t ever take sides against the family—ever”, kind of speech this morning.
On a more substantive note, every time I watch the Patriots, two conflicting thoughts run through my mind—the first is that I just don’t see how this team goes undefeated and they look highly vulnerable to the other top teams. The offensive line is a wreck, thanks to injuries. Jamie Collins is out at linebacker. Now Julian Edelman is out, with foot surgery that may cost him the balance of the regular season.
The loss of Edelman clearly affected the rhythm of the New England passing game, but when the money was on the table, Brady still delivered. Which leads me to the second of the two conflicting thoughts—every time I watch the Patriots, no matter who they’re playing, I assume they’ll find a way to win. If you could do surgery on a football team, you would open this one up and just find a soulless machine inside. They just keep churning.
Brady is doing what Aaron Rodgers, at least the few weeks, has been unable to, and that’s compensate for injuries on the offensive line and to his favorite receiver. That brings us to the slumping Packers and its two-time MVP quarterback. Rodgers appears to have a case of “happy feet” going right now, or the “yips” or whatever psychological term you want to affix to it.
The Green Bay defense did its job yesterday against Detroit, yet the Packers somehow managed to lose a game that one of the worst teams in the NFL did everything in its power to give away. It’s turned next Sunday’s Packers-Vikings game up in Minneapolis into a big-time showdown. I’m looking forward to see this Viking team play—I haven’t seen them since the opening Monday Night debacle in San Francisco.
The Vikes have a head coach, an organization and a quarterback that’s all clearly coming on, and it will fun to see how far they’ve gotten against the team that’s been the NFC North standard-bearer in this decade.