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Snap Judgments: Patriots 34, Redskins 27

12.11.11 at 4:07 pm ET
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It was a game that did zero to quiet any doubts regarding the quality of the Patriots defense, but it was ultimately a win, as Tom Brady threw three TD passes — two to Rob Gronkowski — and a last-minute Redskins drive was halted by a Jerod Mayo interception as New England moved to 10-3 on the season with a 34-27 victory over Washington.

The Patriots travel to Denver to take on Tim Tebow and the Broncos next Sunday. They will clinch the AFC East with a win or loss by the Jets against the Eagles.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Rob Gronkowski (six catches, 160 yards) continued to make a case for MVP consideration (I’m serious — I know Rodgers will win, but are there five better candidates than Gronkowski?) with another brilliant performance on Sunday. Gronkowski got started quickly, carrying Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes on a 49-yard catch first-quarter catch. Tom Brady hit Gronkowski over the middle on an 11-yard TD catch on the very next play, giving the tight end his 14th TD of the season, setting a positional record. He added another TD in the third quarter, hauling in a 37-yard pass from Brady despite being held by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan on the 3rd-and-5 play.

– Vince Wilfork has more INT’s than Devin McCourty this season and now has been in the end zone more than Chad Ochocinco. Andre Carter beat Willie Smith for a sack on Grossman, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Wilfork in the end zone for a first-quarter TD. Carter was a force all game, beating Smith consistently on the edge to put pressure on Grossman.

– Tom Brady wasn’t at his most accurate– he completed just 22-of-37 passes — but finished the game with 357 yards passing and three touchdowns. Both his second-half TD passes were highlight-reel stuff, as he tossed a perfect lob to Gronkowski over the middle and then was able to buy time and find Wes Welker for a 24-yard score. Brady was 9-of-11 for 148 yds and the two TDs in the third quarter and is now over 4,000 yards passing on the season and moved ahead of Warren Moon for sole possession of sixth place on the all-time list for passing TDs.

– Welker caught his ninth TD of the season (career high) and reached the 100-catch total. He is one of three players in NFL history (Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison) with four seasons with at least 100 receptions.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Rex Grossman throws for 252 yards, Roy Helu rushes for 126 yards, and Brandon Banks throws a touchdown pass. A very shaky effort by this defense today. No more excuses, this group took a major step back. There is no way anyone can really believe that this defense, right now, would ever keep a game against the Packers or Saints competitive. Again: For long stretches, Rex Grossman shredded them on Sunday. The Redskins put up 463 yards of offense, and this wasn’t Vince Young or Dan Orlovsky tanking up in garbage time, either.

– Devin McCourty has had a lost season, and it got even lostlier (we’ll go with it) on Sunday. McCourty was beat deep by Donte Stallworth on a 51-yard pass in the first quarter (never saw the ball, never turned around) and was beat by Stallworth on a third-down in the red zone on the same drive. McCourty later was flagged –correctly — for pass interference on a 3rd-and-18 slant to Jabar Gaffney at the Washington 15, allowing the Redskins to continue a drive that would end in a Gaffney TD. The man Gaffney beat on the play? You bet.

– Jeff Triplette headed an officiating crew that was nothing short of embarrassing. A roughing the passer call that wiped out a McCourty INT? Awful. A forearm to the head hit on Brady by London Fletcher? Not even close. Wilfork with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Evan Royster? Nope. The only thing even approaching the level of ineptitude of some of these calls was Dan Dierdorf trying to explain what was going on. A Bird-Domininique duel of ineptitude.

– Up 34-27 with just over 6:00 left in the fourth quarter and with the ball at the Washington 6, Brady and the Patriots looked poised to put this game away. But a Welker drop (ball was behind him, but should have been caught) on second down was followed by an interception, a poorly thrown ball to Tiquan Underwood. Brady and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien had a very heated argument on the bench after the pick, with Bill Belichick and other coaches having to step in.

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