Taking a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Giants and offering some first quarter observations:
1) With MLB Jonathan Goff lost for the season, the Giants have relied on a three-safety approach, which gave the Patriots an advantage in the running game. On their first offensive play, third safety Deon Grant (6-2, 215) was blocked out by sixth OL Nate Solder (6-8, 319) on the playside of an 18-yard BenJarvus Green-Ellis run. The left side of the Patriots line also made quick work of the Giants' undersized unit on the play, with LG Logan Mankins tossing DT Chris Canty aside, and C Dan Connolly driving LB Michael Boley downfield and out of the lane.
2) Patriots LB Brandon Spikes showed up early in the game, both against the run and the pass. On the Giants' second drive, Spikes side-stepped a block from FB Bear Pascoe to trip up RB Brandon Jacobs on a 2-yard run. Three plays later, Spikes came in on a designed blitz, defeating a block by C Kevin Boothe to help stop Jacobs for a 1-yard gain. Then, on the ensuing third down, Spikes delivered a crushing hit on TE Jake Ballard to stop the Giants short of the first down. Not only did Spikes prove himself as a three-down player on this drive, but his hit was what kept the Patriots defense from continuing their third down struggles.
3) It isn't hard to question the Patriots' play-calling on their second offensive series. On second-and-4, with a three-tight end package on the field against the Giants' three-safety defense, the Patriots opted for a stretch play. This essentially negated the size advantage the Patriots had, and allowed the Giants to use their own speed to their advantage. Unlike the more conventional drive-blocking run on their first drive, Solder had to operate in space on the edge of the field, as the playside tight end. Grant was able to slide outside, read the play without engaging, and shoot through the gap, tripping up Green-Ellis. Then on third-and-1, Green-Ellis came off the field for the smaller Danny Woodhead, who was unable to muscle his way to a first down against a stacked box.