Vintage Brady Leads Patriots to First Place in the AFC East

Akash ACorrespondent IOctober 19, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 9:   Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots gains yards as Donald Strickland #30 of the New York Jets defends in the second half at Gillette Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

With a record of 5-1 and sitting atop the AFC East, the New England Patriots are holding their heads high going into the bye week.

Until last week, New England was deemed an offensive juggernaut with a suspect defense. After a 20-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, a game in which New England's defense came up with their biggest (and only) stop of this young season, a full-strength Patriots squad is looking extremely viable for a deep post season run.

Tom Brady was not at his best until the end of the fourth quarter, when he led the Patriots on a 10-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in an eight-yard touchdown reception by TE Aaron Hernandez. After throwing two interceptions earlier in the game (both on tipped passes), Brady was arguably the sharpest he's been all season, completing 88.8 percent of his passes on his final drive as Patriots fans enjoyed watching Tom Brady in vintage form.

While Brady's offensive heroics grabbed the headlines, it was the New England defense that deserves the credit for the victory.

Heavily criticized and seriously victimized in past weeks, the defense prevented the Cowboys from capitalizing on New England's uncharacteristic mistakes. The unit allowed just six points off of four Patriot turnovers, including holding Dallas to a field goal when forced to defend within their own 30-yard line.

Their biggest stop came in the fourth quarter.

With Dallas leading 16-13 with the ball and less than four minutes on the clock, the Patriots defense needed to force a quick three-and-out. For the first time in what has seemed like years, the defense was rock solid in the game's most critical situation.

In giving up just five yards on three ineffective plays, the defense looked extremely energetic. Considering the group is lacking its best player in MLB Jerod Mayo, we should see the team improve as health progresses.

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This article was originally posted on New England Sports Online: Patriots