- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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Taking a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Giants and offering some second quarter observations:
1) Patriots LB Brandon Spikes' presence in the running game continued into the second quarter. On a 'trap' run play by the Giants that took DT Albert Haynesworth out of the mix, Spikes met RT Kareem McKenzie in the hole, shedding the block to grab RB Brandon Jacobs by the legs. Fellow LB Rob Ninkovich, who also had a strong first quarter, was in position to make the stop as well, breaking away from TE Jake Ballard in the second level.
2) Typically predictable on third down -- a four-man rush from a four-man line -- the Patriots mixed things up on a Giants third-and-10. With LB Jerod Mayo, CB Phillip Adams, and S Josh Barrett blitzing, DE Mark Anderson dropped into a short zone, unusual for a Patriots defensive lineman. It wasn't a zone blitz -- the pressure left CBs Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty, S Patrick Chung, and Spikes in man coverage without any safety help -- but it was still enough to trip up QB Eli Manning and the Giants offense. While the pressure didn't get to Manning, with Haynesworth notably losing his balance and falling to the ground, Anderson was able to tip the pass away.
3) The Patriots had the same troubles moving the ball on their fourth offensive drive as they did on their first three. This time, it was the right side of the offensive line primarily at fault. After DE Justin Tuck beat RT Sebastian Vollmer on a second-and-7, pressuring Brady into a dump-off to TE Rob Gronkowski that barely made it past the markers, it was RG Brian Waters who couldn't corral DT Linval Joseph on an outside run by RB Stevan Ridley. This was followed by a dropped pass by Gronkowski, then on third-and-9, a high snap by C Dan Connolly that also saw Vollmer beaten by DE Dave Tollefson, forcing a rushed pass by Brady.
4) The breakdowns came in the defensive backfield, as well. On the game's first play, McCourty bit hard on a play action fake, allowing a 14-yard completion to WR Mario Manningham. Early in the second quarter, Arrington struggled as well, reading an outside route on WR Victor Cruz and turning his hips to the sideline, only to have Cruz break back to the middle of the field. It went for a 13-yard completion, with Barrett slipping as he tried to come down from a deep zone to meet Cruz. In the running game, Adams looked lost on the ensuing third-and-4, playing an inside run despite RG Chris Snee pulling outside to Adams' edge of the line. Adams was caught inside as Manning pitched it outside to RB Da'Rel Scott, with WR Devin Thomas shoving Adams to the ground five yards downfield to help open the edge lane.