FOXBORO -- While looking for answers as to what went wrong in Sunday's 24-20 loss to the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots will find three quarters in which their offense wasn't just non-existent, but detrimental as well.
New England trailed New York 10-3 after three quarters on Sunday. Tom Brady was 19-of-33 for 228 yards. Problem was, Brady had thrown two interceptions and lost a fumble during that span of horrendous offensive play.
Brady's first interception -- in the second quarter -- didn't result in any points for the Giants. Both teams went into the half scoreless.
But Brady's second interception led to the first points of the game -- a 22-yard field goal that gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, five minutes into the second half. Brady was trying to force a throw through traffic and into the hands of tight end Rob Gronkowski, but Deon Grant stepped in and picked it off, resulting in a 58-yard drive for New York.
On New England's very next drive, Giants linebacker Michael Boley rushed in from the back side and knocked the ball out of Brady's hand as he was coming back for a throw. The loose ball came down on Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams and was ruled a fumble recovery, giving New York the ball at New England's 10-yard line.
Running back Brandon Jacobs made them pay, taking the first play up the middle for a 10-yard rushing touchdown, and giving the Giants a 10-0 lead with 9:10 left to play in the third quarter.
At that point, the problem wasn't the Patriots' highly criticized defense. It was always dependable offense that was losing the game.
"Were not playing the way were capable of playing," said Brady. "So try to figure out the reasons why. We keep practicing. We keep battling out there. Ill say that theres a lot of fight in the guys."
That "fight" gave New England's defense a chance to win the game, after Brady led the Patriots down the field to score two field goals and two touchdowns on four straight drives.
Brady threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The first was a 5-yard pass to Aaron Hernandez, 32 seconds into the fourth quarter, that tied the game at 10-10. The second came with 1:36 left in the game, and came on a 4th-and-9 pass from 14 yards out, as Brady connected with Gronkowski, giving New England a late 20-17 lead.
"It was all or nothing," said Gronkowski about his touchdown after the game. "We needed that play, and Tom just happened to look at me and read me. It's just a play that you go over in practice, just to get it down, timing and everything. He made a nice throw, and I just had to make a play on it. And it worked out well."
Staying true to the inconsistencies that plagued the Patriots' defense throughout Sunday's loss, Gronkowski had failed to catch passes from Brady on both second and third down. Brady's second-down pass went right through Gronkowski's hands in the end zone, while the third-down pass was a tougher play for Gronkowski to make at the front-left pylon because he had a hand in his face, but it still hit him in the hands and was dropped.
"I had two drops right before," said Gronkowski. "He put them right where only I could get them. I've got to be making those plays. I've got to get those. Luckily enough, he trusted me, and he came to me the third time. But we've got to be doing that all game. We've got to be catching them all, when they're all thrown to you. Just executing throughout the whole game."
That, the Patriots offense didn't do on Sunday. For what it's worth, Gronkowski finished with eight catches for 101 yards and Wes Welker finished with 9 catches for 136 yards. Brady had 342 passing yards and a pair of huge touchdown passes that, if New England's defense didn't allow Eli Manning to drive 80 yards and score a game-winning touchdown in a span of 1:21, would have been the difference.
But instead of harping on the Patriots' defense for not coming through in the clutch, the finger could -- and should -- be pointed at a Patriots' offense, for failing to put points on the board when they had several chances too.
Two crucial third-down situations in Giants territory will certainly be looked at during Monday's film sessions. Those failed attempts to put the ball in the end zone came at the end of the second quarter and midway through the fourth quarter.
The first resulted in a missed 27-yard field-goal attempt by Stephen Gostkowski in the final seconds of the first half. The Patriots had to settle for that field-goal attempt because Brady over-threw a wide open Aaron Hernandez in the left side of the end zone on 3rd-and-7 at the Giants' 8-yard line.
The second resulted in a 45-yard field goal that Gostkowski made, which gave the Pats their first lead of the game at 13-10, with 7:08 left in the game. But had Brady connected with Chad Ochocinco deep down the right sideline on 3rd-and-7 from the Giants' 26-yard line, perhaps the end result would have been different.
"Yeah, we have to get the ball in the end zone when we get down close," said Brady. "We settled for field goals and that sort of thing. Its tough to come out with no points in the first half. We obviously played a very poor first half, but we battled back. We battled through some tough adversity there and put ourselves in a position."
Putting the team in position wasn't enough. And after the loss, everyone agreed. Offensive execution needs to be better for more than just the final quarter.
"What we were doing in the second half, driving and stuff, we've got to be executing all game," said Gronkowski. "In the first half, we've got to be doing that too, as an offense. Just executing, putting up points the whole game."
"Obviously if we could have fixed it, we could have made it happen sooner," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "That's what we were trying to do. We did the best we could. It wasn't quite enough."