EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Perfect season, still intact.
Taking a page from the Giants, this time it was the Patriots scoring in the final seconds to win a back-and-forth game with their rivals from New York. Stephen Gostkowski, who has yet to miss a kick this season, hit one of the biggest field goals of his career on Sunday, drilling a 54-yarder with one second left.
Trailing by 10 points in the third quarter, then by 2 points with 1:47 left in the fourth, the Patriots ran their two-minute drill to perfection — going 44 yards in 12 plays, with no timeouts left — then used Gostkowski's long field goal to beat the Giants at MetLife Stadium, 27-26.
Just when it looked as if the Giants would beat the Patriots for the fourth straight time and hand them their first loss of the season yet again, it was New England reversing the roles and piecing together a last-gasp drive — complete with a fourth-and-10 conversion — to stun the hosts. The win improved the Patriots to 9-0.
"It just felt like I was going to get that opportunity," said Gostkowski, who improved to 21 for 21 on the season, and 17 for 21 in his career on field goals of at least 50 yards, best in NFL history. "Obviously, if I would have missed that kick, we would have lost. That's the name of the game. It's fun to be in those situations. They don't come up very often, especially long kicks like that."
The kick was Gostkowski's 264th field goal, moving him past Adam Vinatieri for the most in franchise history.
There were three lead changes in an exciting fourth quarter, which featured the longest play of Rob Gronkowski's career, a 76-yard touchdown reception that gave the Patriots a 24-23 lead with 11:33 left. After forcing a three-and-out from the Giants on the next possession, the Patriots were poised to put the game away, driving to the New York 1.
A touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount (19 carries, 66 yards) was nullified by a holding penalty, and then a goal-line interception thrown by Tom Brady, who passed for 334 yards but committed two turnovers, gave the Giants another chance to crush the hopes of New England. It all had a familiar feel, because it had happened the previous three times the teams met, with the Giants scoring touchdowns in the last minute to win, twice in Super Bowls.
The Giants appeared to score a go-ahead touchdown just before the two-minute warning, with Odell Beckham Jr., pulling in a 5-yard pass from Eli Manning in the end zone. But Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler knocked the ball away before Beckham completed the catch (the play, originally ruled a touchdown, was overturned), and after two more plays failed to get the Giants into the end zone, they settled for a 29-yard field goal by Josh Brown, his fourth of the game. It put the Giants in front, 26-24, but the Patriots had 1:47 on the clock and needed just a field goal.
"We work on that drill every day, pretty much. We're comfortable doing the two-minute drill," said receiver Danny Amendola. "It came down to just executing, doing our job, and we got close enough for him to kick it."
The drive would have ended and the Patriots likely would have flown home with a loss had Amendola not come up with a 12-yard catch on fourth and 10 from the Patriots' 20. Three plays before, the Giants nearly intercepted a Brady pass, another play that would have effectively ended the game. But rookie safety Landon Collins dropped the sure pick, keeping the Patriots alive.
Amendola added an 11-yard catch that pushed the ball into Giants territory, and had the final reception of the game, a 9-yard gain to the New York 36 that made Gostkowski's try more manageable. He made a pair of 55-yard kicks in warm-ups going the same direction, and had a number of yards to spare.
Following a Giants timeout, rookie Joe Cardona sent a solid snap to holder Ryan Allen, who placed the ball on the turf for Gostkowski, who did the rest. The Giants attempted a number of laterals on the ensuing kickoff, but finally stepped out of bounds, ending the game.
Playing before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and with a law enforcement helicopter circling the stadium prior to the game, the Patriots overcame Manning's first 300-yard game against New England. He threw for 361, and connected with Beckham on an 87-yard touchdown on the Giants' second play from scrimmage.
The Patriots also played most of the game without receiver Julian Edelman, who left on the final play of the first quarter and did not return. Multiple reports following the game indicated Edelman broke his foot.
Still, the Patriots did just enough to stay unbeaten.
"There were a lot of game-changing plays. I'm glad we came out on top," said Brady, who completed 26 of 42 passes and threw for a pair of touchdowns, to Gronkowski in the fourth quarter and Scott Chandler (1 yarder) on the opening drive. "That's a tough team. It always comes down to the end with them. We talked about it before the game, that we just need to play hard for 60 minutes, and it took every last second."
Sounds like a typical Patriots-Giants game. Although the result was different. This one finally went to the Patriots.