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Patriots secondary shines, then falters

11.06.11 at 10:59 pm ET
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Through three quarters Sunday night,  the Patriots secondary proved its critics wrong. The unit that was on pace to give up the most passing yards in NFL history coming into the game had not allowed Eli Manning and the New York offense much of anything, the Giants‘ only touchdown coming on a 10-yard Brandon Jacobs run off a Patriots turnover.

But on the Giants’ final two drives in the fourth quarter, the secondary looked like the same group of guys that played soft coverage and gave up big plays down field through New England’s first seven games. The Giants were just 1-for-11 on third down before converting on their final three on their way to a 24-20 victory.

“We did a good job for the most part, but not good enough,” cornerback Kyle Arrington said.

Nobody was a better representation of the secondary’s rise and fall in the game than Arrington. The third-year corner came up big when he picked off Manning in the end zone with New York threatening on the goal line. He also broke up a pass to Victor Cruz that surely would have resulted in a Giants touchdown early in the third quarter.

But with the Patriots up 13-10 late in the game, Arrington committed a pass interference penalty on a deep pass to Mario Manningham that moved the Giants into New England territory. On that same drive, Manningham beat Arrington to catch a pretty 10-yard touchdown pass from Manning in the left corner of the end zone, giving New York a 17-13 lead with 3:07 left in the game.

“In the National Football League, playing corner, that’s the business,” Arrington said of his up-and-down game. “You got to have a short memory. Can’t help good throws and good catches sometimes. That’s all I have to say about that.”

But after Tom Brady hooked up with Rob Gronkowski for a 14-yard touchdown with 1:40 left in the game, the Patriots defense once again had a chance to put New York away for good. And again, they failed.

On the Giants’ subsequent drive, Manning completed passes of 19 and 28 yards before he scrambled down to the New England 12-yard line. Another pass interference call, this one on safety Sergio Brown, gave the Giants a first down at the Patriots’ 1-yard line. It took three plays for the Giants to punch it in, but they finally did on a pass from Manning to tight end Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left.

Manning was 8-for-13 for 85 yards on those final two drives. His efficiency, combined with the two pass interference calls on the Patriots, proved lethal for the New England secondary.

“Really tough, but it is what it is,” safety Patrick Chung said about losing the game in the final minute.

Arrington described what happened on his pass interference penalty that gave New York great field position on its first touchdown of the fourth quarter.

“The receiver got a step on me, so I’m trying to make up ground on an underthrown ball. Could have played it better,” Arrington said. “I’ve got to see it on film, I didn’t think ‘€¦ I don’t know, it doesn’t matter what I think. They called it, and I got to see it on film and coach it up better and play it better next time.”

Coach Bill Belichick called both Arrington’s and Brown’s penalties “tough” calls.

When it came down to the end, though, Arrington recognized that the loss came down to a lack of defensive execution on the game’s final plays.

“They just made more plays than we did,” Arrington said. “The offense put it in our hands and we just couldn’t make enough plays.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, Eli Manning, Kyle Arrington, Sergio Brown
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