Tom Brady and the Patriots offense didn't quite look like Tom Brady and the Patriots offense on this night.
But as Kyle Van Noy soared through the Foxborough sky, we all received a reminder that the future Hall of Fame quarterback doesn't always have to take the lead. Not with the way this defense is playing.
The Patriots were able to get by on Thursday night. It wasn't always easy. On offense, it really wasn't pretty. On defense, however, it was another turnover-filled, make-life-miserable-for-another-quarterback-type performance. That's why the Patriots improved to 6-0 in their 35-14 win over the New York Giants.
A first-quarter special teams touchdown from Chase Winovich and a fourth-quarter score by Van Noy helped make up for any lack of offense. The Patriots defense intercepted rookie quarterback Daniel Jones three times as the Giants finished with 213 total yards and finished 2 for 10 on third down.
Brady threw for 334 yards and didn't throw for a touchdown, but he led the Patriots with two touchdowns on the ground. Brandon Bolden scored the other offensive touchdown for the Pats.
Things didn't start great for the offense. On the first series, Bill Belichick bypassed having Mike Nugent attempt a 37-yard field goal. They went for it on fourth-and-1, but the Giants stuffed Sony Michel at the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs. That theme continued, early.
Following a three-and-out, the Patriots got the ball back after a John Simon interception at 7:17 of the first quarter. Brady's very next pass, at 7:07, was easily intercepted by Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. It looked like a miscommunication between Brady and Julian Edelman as the pass was painfully off the mark.
It's a good thing that the Patriots have an elite defense and special teams unit. That's why they took an early, 7-0 lead.
At 1:41 of the first quarter, Bolden blocked a Riley Dixon punt by pushing Giants linebacker Nate Stupar into the ball path. Winovich caught the ball and ran six yards in for his first NFL touchdown. This marked the second blocked punt returned for a score by the Patriots this season.
The offense continued to receive help and that's how they extended the lead to 14-0.
At 9:40 of the second quarter, Duron Harmon intercepted Jones to set up Brady and the offense at the 20-yard line. Following a penalty, Brady hit Jakobi Meyers for a gain of 23 to set up a first-and-goal from the 2. It took three tries, but at 7:11, Bolden rushed for a 1-yard touchdown.
The Giants came right back at the Patriots. On the ensuing series, Jones connected with Golden Tate for a 64-yard touchdown pass at 6:05 of the second quarter. This marked the first passing touchdown allowed by the Patriots in six games.
Things continued to trend in the wrong direction for Brady. On the next series, the quarterback was strip-sacked by Lorenzo Carter. Giants edge rusher Markus Golden recovered the fumble and ran 42 yards back for the touchdown at 4:38 to tie this game, 14-14. To make matters worse, Josh Gordon suffered a knee injury while trying to tackle Golden on the play and didn't return.
The offense found some life in the next drive as the Patriots took a 21-14 lead. After completing a 23-yard pass to Meyers, Brady hit James White three times in a row, including an 11-yard pass to set the Pats up with a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Brady kept the ball, scoring on a quarterback keeper on the next play with 36 seconds left in the half.
The defense opened up the half by intercepting Jones. This time, Stephon Gilmore jumped in front of the pass for the defense's third pick of the game.
The offense took over, but left the field with similar results. After slowly marching down the field, (a 16-play, 60-yard drive that ate up 9:25 of the third quarter), Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal attempt, clacking the ball off the left upright.
On the next drive, the Pats decided against a 50-yard field goal attempt and went for it on fourth-and-7 at the 32-yard line. Brady's pass fell incomplete for the offense's second turnover on downs.
In the end, the offensive ineptitude didn't matter. Not with this defense. On the ensuing Giants drive, Jamie Collins forced a fumble on Giants back Jon Hilliman. Van Noy recovered the ball and ran 22 yards, diving into the end zone, to give the Patriots a 28-14 lead with 8:33 left in the game.
Brady capped off the next Patriots series with his second touchdown run, with 3:49 remaining, and the Patriots were in cruise control.
It wasn't always pretty, but it was more than enough.