Patriots Are Perfect No More

The fact is the Patriots were out-everythinged by the Giants. Brady, the human grass stain, was sacked five times. And when he wasn't sacked, he was knocked to the ground. He spent more time on the turf than fertilizer.

Brady said his injured ankle wasn't a problem. He's right. The problem was that the New England offensive line had a meltdown on the worst possible night. Tom Petty could have pass protected better.

Asked whether this was the most times he'd been popped in a game this season, Brady tried to scramble away from the question. "I don't know," he said. "I've got to wait and see the film. I think we all could have done things better."

In other words, yes, he'd never been hit more. But Brady was right about the Patriots' collective failure. They had a list of screwups as long as the playlist on his oversized wristband.

Brady wasn't sharp. There were overthrows, underthrows, and just plain, inexplicable misses. Randy Moss was open on a slant-and-out in the end zone … and Brady threw wide. He found Moss for the TD -- and a brief lead -- but the NFL's MVP clearly was affected by the Giants' defensive scheme and pass rush.

Meanwhile, New England running back Laurence Maroney had a grand total of 36 yards. He had 11 at halftime. In short, the league's most prolific offense of all time played as though it had its cleats tied together.

The defense held the Giants to those 17 points, 18 fewer than the last time the teams played. But when perfection was on the line, the Patriots couldn't do what the 1972 Miami Dolphins had done decades earlier: do enough to win.

With 2:39 remaining in the game, Manning drove the Giants from his own 17-yard line to the Patriots end zone. It was only fitting that Burress, the guy who had guaranteed a New York win, caught the TD pass.

Give Manning and Burress and the rest of the Giants their props. The Patriots certainly did. But you can't ignore the obvious: The New England defense -- coach Bill Belichick's defense -- dropped would-be interceptions and couldn't hold on to would-be fumble recoveries. The Pats gave up a 16-play, nearly 10-minute drive to open the game.

As for Belichick, I'm still waiting to hear a logical reason why a fourth-and-13 attempt at the Giants' 31 makes more sense than a 49-yard field goal attempt. But that's what Belichick decided to do with 6:49 left in the third quarter and the Patriots ahead 7-3.

Brady's pass fell incomplete, so we'll never know whether Stephen Gostkowski could have made the 49-yarder. But this much is sure: Those three points would have been nice to have later in the game.

"We had an opportunity and we let it slip away," Seymour said. "We had an opportunity to be special."

Opportunity lost. And perfection with it.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

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