FOXBORO, Mass. (AP)—The New England Patriots proved that statistics don’t win football games—defense and perseverance do.
“We’re just an emotional team,” said defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who had two deflections that were turned into interceptions and a sack that stopped what looked like a New York touchdown drive.
“If something goes against us, we just keep coming back and trying again on the next play. It worked out for us today.”
Indeed it did on a rainy, windy day that made handling the ball difficult. The Patriots overcame it, the Giants didn’t—New York had five turnovers, including two on its first three plays; New England had none.
Despite that first-half dominance by the Giants (2-3), the Patriots (4-2) actually led 7-3 at intermission, thanks to Tyrone Poole’s strip of Tiki Barber little more than two minutes into the game. The fumble was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Matt Chatham, one of many backups forced to play because of injuries.
Then the Patriots came out in the second half, scored 10 quick points and the Giants never really got back into the game. Brady, 1-of-10 for 7 yards before intermission, was 7-of-11 for 105 yards in the second half, including a 21-yard pass to David Givens on third-and-16 from his own 9.
That set the Patriots on the way to their second TD, a 1-yard run by Mike Cloud that made it 17-3 in the third quarter.
“Consistent,” said New England linebacker Roman Phifer, a 13-year veteran. “We just wanted to be consistent and keep them from making big plays.”
The Giants moved in the middle of the field, but couldn’t do anything when it got inside the Patriots’ 25. Typical was Seymour’s sack on a second and three from the New England 11 on the second play of the fourth quarter that kept the Giants from closing within a touchdown—they settled for Brett Conway’s 34-yard field goal that left New England up 17-6.
“We tried to take what they gave us,” said Kerry Collins, who was 35-of-59 for 314 yards but threw four interceptions. “Several times we called deep plays, but it just wasn’t there.”
Phifer said coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel had emphasized goal line defense since training camp.
“Nothing’s different but our attitude,” he said. “We’re communicating better and putting out 110 percent effort when a score is on the line. We have a bend-but-don’t-break attitude. We’ll give them field goals or nothing at all.”
The Patriots’ offense wasn’t pretty, but it was reasonably effective in the second half.
Faulk, inserted after Cloud was ineffective, ran for 40 yards on a drive to set up a 28-yard Adam Vinatieiri field goal on the first series of the half. Faulk finished with 14 carries for 87 yards, a career high for the fifth-year back.
After the Brady-to-Givens play on the next drive, Brady found David Patten for 39 yards down the sidelines. Then the Patriots lined up and ran a quick sneak before New York could challenge, although replay showed Patten had both feet in.
“We practice that,” Brady said. “The coaches said it was close, so we got it off before they had time to look at it.”
The win was the fourth in five games for New England after being shocked 31-0 by Buffalo in their opener. It was the second straight loss for the Giants, who now trail Dallas by two games in the NFC East.
“We haven’t turned the ball over a lot since I’ve been here,” said Fassel, who is in his seventh season as coach of the Giants. “It just seems that when it rains, it pours.”
Except that it only seemed to be raining on the Giants.
Dan Klecko, New England’s rookie defensive tackle, got his first carry since high school and gained 5 yards. … Marcellus Rivers, New York’s backup tight end, had four catches for 49 yards. That’s one fewer than the five catches he had in his first two NFL seasons. … Last week, New England released fullback Fred McCrary to make room on the roster for Cloud, coming back from a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.On Sunday, Cloud and McCrary started together in the Patriots’ backfield.