The New England Patriots improve to 10-3 on the season to keep their hopes for a number 1 seed alive, squeaking out a 34-27 win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon.
Tom Brady finished with an impressive 22/37 for 357 yards and three touchdowns, although he did throw his first interception since the Patriots' last loss against the Giants on Nov. 6th. Almost as impressive though was the performance that Rex Grossman put on, completing 19 of his 32 pass attempts for 252 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
There have been a few times this year when it's looked like the Patriots would be in for a shootout; examples being the game against the Cowboys in which the score was 10-13 at the half and the game against the Giants in which the score was 0-3 at the half. Needless to say, their matchup against the Washington Redskins was certainly not touted as one of those games.
Yet that's exactly what it was. When the halftime whistles were blown the score was 20-20, and Grossman had completed 9 passes for 145 yards and 1 touchdown compared to Brady's 8 completions for 166 yards and 1 touchdown; and many more touchdowns were yet to come.
The first half of this game was more productive and exciting than many of the Patriots' first half showings this year; but at time it resembled a circus sideshow more than it did an NFL football game.
The first score of the game came when Vince Wilfork recovered a Rex Grossman fumble in his own end zone for a touchdown to go up 7-0 early in the game. The Redskins responded with a 24 yard field goal from Graham Gano, after the Patriots put up another one of their signature goal line stands after a 75 yard drive.
The next Patriots possession featured a short yardage Brady pass to Rob Gronkowski who proceeded to shake tackles all the way down the field for a 49 yard gain; going on to catch the 11 yard touchdown pass that put them up 14-3. The touchdown drive produced 60 yards on two plays.
A Jabar Gaffney 9 yard touchdown catch put the Redskins back into a one possession game, and the Skins were not messing around with their opportunity to pull ahead. On their first play of the second quarter, Kyle Shanahan's offense ran a trick play that featured wide receiver Brandon Banks coming out of the shotgun to throw a deep pass to Santana Moss that turned into a touchdown. The score gave the Redskins their first lead of the game at 14-10, and a pair of Stephen Gostkowski field goals and another one from Graham Gano rounded out the half to keep the game tied.
In the third quarter, both teams picked up the pace. The Patriots drew first blood by scoring on their first drive of the second half on a, you guessed it, Brady to Gronkowski touchdown pass. You know the one I'm talking about - the one where Brady completes it to Gronk in some amount of double or triple coverage and he shakes a tackle to go 39 yards for the score.
Not to be outdone, the suddenly and inexplicably efficient Grossman led the Washington offense 76 yards on 10 plays, culminating in a 6 yard touchdown pass to David Anderson; the third Redskins receiver to catch a touchdown pass on the day to put the game back in a tie at 27-27.
The final touchdown and final scoring play of the game though came on the 24 yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, putting the Patriots up 34-27 for good, as the fourth quarter featured futile efforts by both teams to advance the score. The Redskins had the ball in the red zone with under a minute to go, but couldn't convert on third down and the game ended on a Jerod Mayo interception.
Defensive Struggles and Highlights
Although the Patriots secondary has struggled all season long, it looked today as if it's regressing. Grossman did damage across the middle all day long with Donte Stallworth, and Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington failed to ever really maintain coverage on Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney.
Defensive highlights once again belonged the Patriots' defensive line, as well as Washington's secondary which seemed to have red jerseys swarming every receiver on the other end of a Brady pass. Second year defensive end Brandon Deaderick had a great game, contributing five tackles including a sack, another tackle for a loss and a quarterback hit. Andre Carter once again was a nightmare for the opposing quarterback all afternoon, sacking him once and hitting him three other times.
Week 15 will feature the Patriots playing a highly anticipated 4:15 game in Denver against Tim Tebow...and his team, the Broncos.