I have to disagree with Jamie on one point about this game - I thought this defense showed great improvement against the run.
Okay, let me specify - against the run inside. The times the Giants broke off big runs, it was when they switched up (especially in the middle quarters of the game) and came around the edge (at times the DB's responsibility). This resulted in the YPC average Jamie cited, but I thought this game showed a real strength of this year's team for the first time - the defensive line.
Within this unit, I thought two players stood out above the others: Jarvis Green and a rookie, Kenny Smith. Green's moment came midway through the second quarter with the Giants on the Patriots' 45 yard line. Green stuffed Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw for no gain. On the next play, the left side of the Pats defense played as a unit, closing up the gaps and scrambling to leave the Giants stymied at the 45 again.
On the third play, Carr dropped back to throw. That's when Green hit his blocker, the 6' 5", 315-pound Kevin Booth, and with three great heaves No 77 was in his quarterback's lap.
Throughout this enounter, Green kept his right hand high on Booth's jersey, and as he slowly walked Booth back toward Carr, took that right hand off Booth long enough to hook Carr around the shoulder and pull him down to the ground. Booth didn't go down with them, but it was close. I watched that play several times, but I'm still not over the immense strength Green showed - and I thought it was the finest series, offensive or defensive, from the Patriots all night.
Smith, meanwhile, came off a double team in the next series to stuff Bradshaw in the backfield for a loss. He looked powerful, huge - and also very, very, VERY big on that play.
Linebacker John Lynch, who looks like he could be Wes Welker's brother, was another bright spot. He showed wide-eyed intensity similar to his lookalike this game, and was also a big part of stuffing power runs through the gaps. Like Rodney Harrison (who got a few bone-rattling pops in on Giants WRs as well), Lynch played this game like he's only got one gear: full tilt.
DBs, on the other hand, did not acquit themselves so well. In the series where Green owned Kevin Booth, the Giants tried running the ball up the middle twice and throwing once, and never got past the 45 yard line. Once they switched up, they ran all over the Pats secondary. Lynch looked silly on one passing play for a Giants touchdown, falling down trying to catch a receiver. Kenny Smith also looked slow and clumsy trying to chase Giants backup QB David Carr. It was as if the Patriots defense, as a unit, had resolved to do one thing right this week if it was the last thing they did, and that thing was stop the run up the middle. Meanwhile, they still seemed taken by surprise on other kinds of plays.
Then, there was the offense. Cassel actually looked more collected in the pocket and seemed to read the field better, but never got close to a score. Gutierrez, who'd looked more solid than Cassel last week, played most of the game, also didn't score, and threw interception after interception. Kevin O'Connell gave the WCVB homer broadcasters something to crow about, but the opposition by that time was the Giants' C team or worse - it was enjoyable to see the Pats finally score a touchdown or two, but not something you could really carry with you into next week.
Meanwhile, the O-Line...ugh. I'm still trying to decide if Brady's absence or the compromised O-Line have been more of a factor in this putrid preseason. Part of me wondered if the presence of the key veterans on defense - Rodney and Tedy especially - has helped that unit gel quicker than a Brady-less offense.
Other times I'm just lighting votive candles and joss sticks, and making sacrifices to Jobu for Brady's health, just thinking about him stepping up in the pocket behind that line.