The New England Patriots continued their powder-puff schedule against the hapless Washington Redskins on Sunday. Yet, watching the game you would not figure that Washington DC was the home of one of the worst scoring offenses in the league, led by usually less than stellar QB Rex Grossman. The Redskins put up arguably their best offensive game of the season against the Patriots sieve-like defense, putting up 463 yards of total offense; 170 rushing and 293 passing respectively. In the end though, the Patriots prevailed 34-27, led by Brady-Gronkowski and two key turnovers on defense to begin and end the game.
The game began on a positive note for the Patriots defense with a huge turnover for points. After two failed opening drives by both the Redskins and the Patriots, the Patriots pinned the Redskins inside their own 5-yard line with a punt from Zoltan Mesko. Dropping back to pass in his own end zone, Grossman was mauled by former Redskin-Andre Carter, forcing Grossman to cough up the ball. Big Vince Wilfork, ever nimble on his feet, recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, putting the Patriots on to 7-0. While the rest of the game did not go as productively for the Patriots defense the importance of this play cannot understated, this touchdown ended up being the difference in the game.
The Patriots day on offense was highlighted by what has become a weekly occurrence, Rob Gronkowski looking like a man among boys. The 2nd year tight end entered the NFL record books Sunday with his 14th and 15th TD catch of the season, most by any TE in a single season. Gronkowski received his first touchdown pass of the game from Tom Brady on the Patriots second drive, set up by a 49-yard pass and catch by the Gronk himself on the pervious play. Gronkowski caught a short pass from Brady along the right-sideline, only to be met immediately by two Redskin defenders. Virtually stopped with the referee just seconds away from blowing the play dead, Gronkowski shook off the defenders like they were rain in a dog’s coat and rumbled his way along the sideline to the 11 yard line. A play like that would be considered a defensive blunder by most, but to me truly shows the raw power and tenacity of the Gronk; the man wants to score on every play and will tear apart the heavens themselves to do so.
The heroic play of Gronkowski seemed to inspire not only the New England faithful at FedEx Field on Sunday, but also seemed to inspire the Redskins who stepped up their collective game after the Gronkowski TD put the Pats up 14-3. The Redskins immediately answered with 17 unanswered points, six of which were scored on a bit of trickery on the Redskins part. In the second quarter a double reverse put the ball in Redskins’ WR Brandon Banks who showed off his QB skills, throwing a touchdown to a wide-open Santana Moss in the end zone. From what began with what seemed like another long day for the Redskins, their inspired play led to 20-20 tie at halftime in what became anyone’s game to win.
The 2nd half opened with more from the Brady-to-Gronk show. Gronkowski received his second touchdown of day on a catch that equaled the heroics of his 1st quarter reception. Stationed on the 37-yard line, Gronkowski in tight coverage caught a short pass from Brady in the middle of the field. The Redskin defender on Gronkowski made a desperate attempt to slow him down, but was thrown to the ground like a rag doll and had to witness Gronk virtually walk his way untouched 30-yards into the end zone. A back in forth battle continued through the 3rd quarter with the Redskins producing a TD drive of the own, only to be followed by another Brady touchdown this time to Wes Welker putting the Patriots on top 34-27.
The 4th quarter held a bit of a different flavor from the rest of the game with the defenses of both teams finally deciding it was time to play some football. The Patriots produced their first two 3 and outs since the opening drive of the game in the 4th, but interceptions were the story of the quarter. Late in the quarter, Brady led the Pats inside the red zone to set up what seemed like a guarantee of points to put the game out of the hands of the Redskins. But like the day as a whole, things did not go as planned for the Patriots. On a 3rdand 4 play from the 4-yard line, Brady riffled the ball in the direction of WR Tiquan Underwood who was streaking across the back of the end zone, closely covered by a Redskins defender who stepped in front of Underwood to intercept the ball.
The unwise decision to force the ball to Underwood became the topic of a much heated argument on the Patriots sideline between Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, but more importantly gave the ball back to the Redskins with time left for them to drive down the field to tie the game. The Redskins did just what they needed to do with the ball, putting together a 70 yard drive to inside the Patriots 10-yard line. Yet, when it was needed the Patriots defense stepped up in a big way with a game saving turnover. Following a pass interference call against Santana Moss, negating a Redskins’ TD, Grossman tossed a short pass that was tipped and intercepted by Jerod Mayo at the 5-yard line securing the win for the Patriots. Final score 34-27 Pats.