Sunday, December 11, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Patriots 34, Redskins 27
By Mike Reiss
LANDOVER, Md. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 34-27 win over the Redskins:
What it means: The Patriots improve to 10-3 and keep pace in the race for the AFC's top playoff seed. It took linebacker Jerod Mayo's interception with 22 seconds left to seal the win. The Patriots looked to be in control but a Tom Brady interception in the end zone with 6:30 to play in the fourth quarter -- when the Patriots had a chance to go up by at least 10 -- gave the Redskins a chance for a late comeback. After the Redskins drove the field, Mayo came up with the big pick near the goal line. This was a long game, filled with penalties and stoppages. The third team on the field, Jeff Triplette’s officiating crew, made its presence felt.
Sideline argument with Brady and O’Brien: After Brady's interception in the fourth quarter, there was a heated exchange between Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. The two had to be separated. They later cooled down, but that sideline exchange -- not often seen in New England -- reflected some of the Patriots' frustrations on the day.
Gronkowski breaks TD record for TEs: Tight end Rob Gronkowski set the NFL record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with his 14th. The TD came with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter, with Gronkowski on the receiving end of an 11-yard strike from Brady. After the score, Gronkowski spiked the ball with force as he does after each TD, then humorously waited for the ball to come down so he could retrieve it. Gronkowski added a 37-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the third quarter, shaking off one-on-one coverage from linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. After that score, he spiked the ball and leaped into the crowd.
More on Gronkowski’s big day: Gronkowski eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving on the season, becoming just the second tight end in team history to do so and the 29th tight end in NFL history. Expect to see the highlight of Gronkowski’s 49-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter often as Redskins were bouncing off him and he kept his balance up the right sideline. He’s a beast.
What has happened to Devin McCourty? Cornerback Devin McCourty, the team’s 2010 first-round draft choice, had a tough first half. He was beaten for a touchdown, called for pass interference to extend a drive, and was in coverage on a deep long ball to Donte Stallworth. The first-half struggles highlighted what has been a seasonlong trend with McCourty, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. McCourty did have two big pass breakups in the second half, which perhaps will be the spark he needs to turn the corner.
Defense struggles, but does enough in fourth: One week after giving up 21 points to the Colts in the fourth quarter, the Patriots' defense played a better final 15 minutes. It's a unit that struggled for most of the day, but when a final stop was needed, it delivered. This is the type of game that reinforces the thought that if the Patriots are to win a championship, they're going to have to rely mostly on their offense.
What’s next: The Patriots visit the Broncos in Denver on Sunday, Dec. 18, while the Redskins travel to face the Giants that day.