The Patriots' defense got off to a strong start, immediately forcing a 3-and-out with a pair of incomplete passes and heading back to the sidelines hoping for a nice long Patriots drive. And after one play, it looked like they were going to get their wish, as Tom Brady found Aaron Hernandez, who broke a 15-yard run after the catch. The momentum died in a hurry, however, as Brady suffered a rare streak of three straight incomplete passes, forcing a punt.
With their wishes unfulfilled by the offense, but given tremendous field position by a great special teams play on the punt, the defense decided to get the job done on their own. Stuck inside their own 5-yard line, the Redskins didn't find any yards on the first two plays, and on the third Rex Grossman took a bit too much time. Right as he prepared to throw, former Redskin Andre Carter found him in his own end zone, knocking the ball free. With at least a safety ensured, Vince Wilfork managed to dive on the ball and come away from the pile with it when the bodies had been cleared for his first career touchdown.
Staying on the field after the ensuing kickoff, the defense finally found themselves tested, with beleaguered sophomore cornerback Devin McCourty being their target of choice. On 3rd-and-9, Grossman let loose with a long ball to Donte Stallworth, who had a step on McCourty. The ball dropped in over Stallworth's shoulder, setting the Redskins up inside the red zone.
That, however, is where the Patriots shine. After Stallworth again helped Washington convert on third down, the Patriots kept the Skins out of the end zone for two plays, drew a false start with a shift on the defensive line, and then forced Grossman to lob the ball out the back of the end zone, leaving them with only a field goal to show for their efforts.
With Washington's kickoff going out of bounds, the Patriots started their next drive from the 40-yard line. They would have only two plays. The first is the type that will grace highlight reels for a good while to come, as Rob Gronkowski laid out for a catch, got back to his feet untouched, and was mobbed by a pair of Redskins who were hanging off his back as he made his way to the sideline--where he promptly shook both of them off and then took off towards the end zone. By the time the Redskins managed to take him down, the ball was just 11 yards from pay dirt. The next play covered all of those yards, with Brady again finding Rob Gronkowski for the score which broke the record for tight end receiving touchdowns in a season.
Down 14-3, the Redskins knew they needed a drive, and again made it happen with the help of Devin McCourty. It was number 32 who gave up a pass interference penalty on a 3rd-and-18 play, and after a few more big plays got them into the red zone, allowed Jabar Gaffney to run free in the end zone, where Grossman found him for a touchdown.
The Patriots have sent it back Washington's way with a 3-and-out as the quarter comes to a close, so Washington will have a chance to grab the lead with the first drive of the second.