By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots actually trailed for a period on Sunday afternoon. They trailed for a whole 2:26 of game time.

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That’s about the only negative to take away from Sunday’s win, a 33-7 stomping of the hapless Redskins, during which the Patriots overcame a sluggish first half to play to their potential over the final 45 or so minutes of the game.

With the win, the Patriots are now 5-0, and they’re gearing up to welcome the 2-3 Giants on Thursday night, a team that’s fresh off a 28-10 home loss against the Vikings.

Things are looking up for the New England Patriots.

Still, as is always the case, it wasn’t a perfect game. And so … Four Ups … Four Downs. Here we go.


Dont’a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower sacks Colt McCoy. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The defensive captain missed last week’s game in Buffalo, and it appears as though he let out some pent-up aggression early on in Washington. He tackled Chris Thompson for a loss of a yard on the opening possession of the game, leading to a third-and-long. He recorded another tackle for a loss on the opening play of the second quarter, which came just one snap before Hightower sacked Colt McCoy on the ensuing third down.

On Washington’s next possession, Hightower tackled Steven Sims for a four-yard loss. Two plays later, McCoy was so rattled by Hightower’s pursuit that he coughed up the football without being touched.

Hightower finished with eight total tackles, 1.5 sacks, four tackles for a loss and a pass defense. He had himself a monstrous showing in this one.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

It gets taken for granted a bit that the Patriots can enter a game with an offensive plan of leaning almost entirely on the 42-year-old quarterback to lead the show.

And though Brady did throw an ill-advised interception while facing an avalanche of pass rushers in the red zone, it would be difficult to find too many faults with his performance on Sunday, when he went 28-for-42 for 348 yards, three touchdowns and the one pick. (Though, Brady probably wanted to hit on this one.) Brady moved past Brett Favre on the all-time passing yards list, and he now trails Peyton Manning by just 18 yards.

His touchdown pass to Brandon Bolden was particularly impressive:

Unfortunately for Brady, his six-yard scamper to convert a third-and-5 was taken back due to a holding penalty, but the quarterback has to be feeling better after this game than he felt after last week in Buffalo.

Jason McCourty/Jonathan Jones

The Patriots only recorded one interception in this game. What a letdown.

Jokes aside, the pick by Jason McCourty was a big one, as it set the Patriots up on Washington’s 11-yard line, allowing the Patriots to tack on an easy three points to extend their lead to 12-7 prior to halftime.

Jonathan Jones’ forced turnover was massively impressive, as he expertly punched the football out of Trey Quinn’s arms just after the receiver hauled in a catch and turned upfield.

Hitting a moving target like that is not exactly easy. Jamie Collins recovered the fumble at Washington’s 16-yard line, but it didn’t turn into points because of Brady’s interception.

Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Playing football is clearly quite a painful experience for Julian Edelman right now, as he is dealing with a rib injury suffered against the Jets. You’d never know it from the results, though, as Edelman caught eight passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Brady was 8-for-9 when targeting Edelman, with the only incompletion coming on a drop by Edelman.

Edelman made up for that drop by making this catch on his next target:

Fittingly, Edelman was on the receiving end when Brady passed Favre on the all-time passing yards list, too.

Edelman made his own little bit of history, passing Troy Brown on the all-time list of Patriots touchdown receptions. Edelman is now ninth in Patriots history with 32 receiving touchdowns. (He’s the 38th-leading passer in Patriots history, too, in case you’re keeping track.)

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BONUS: Ryan Izzo

A 2018 seventh-round draft pick for the Patriots, Ryan Izzo is finally on the board with his first career touchdown reception.

He was … open.

BONUS: Sony Michel

After rushing for just 10 yards on four carries in the first half, Michel was a monster in the second half, when he ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

More importantly, Michel finally made his mark as a pass-catching back, hauling in three passes for 32 yards. Those numbers aren’t as significant as the fact that he actually made a contribution as a pass catcher, something that the Patriots need in order to avoid a certain level of predictability when No. 26 is on the field.

Bonus: Sack Masters

Five different defenders recorded at least a half-sack. Hightower had 1.5, splitting one with Michael Bennett. Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, Chase Winovich recorded one apiece, with Collins stripping the ball from Colt McCoy on his.


The McCourty Twins (For One Play)

Sound tackling has been and continues to be a significant reason for the success of the Patriots’ defense. Tackling proved to be quite difficult for both Devin and Jason McCourty on receiver Steven Sims’ 65-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter.

Devin got both of his arms around Sims’ hips but didn’t finish the tackle. Jason then came in with a chance to make the tackle but barely slowed down Sims. From there, the rookie was off to the races, stunning the Patriots (and the football world) to give Washington an early 7-0 lead.

(That would stand as the last an only goof by the defense for the day. So while it’s not a sign of crisis … it did cost the Patriots a shutout.)

Mike Nugent

Mike Nugent (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

First kick. First chance. A simple PAT.

No good.

That’s not what you’re looking for there.

He ended up doing all right, going 2-for-2 on his field goals and 3-for-4 on his PATs, though his final PAT did clank off the upright before passing through.

Chalk that first miss up to some new-team jitters. But consider us WATCHING.

Offensive Line (First Half Only)

The Patriots didn’t have the confidence to even attempt rushing the ball in the first half, and Brady was regularly under siege whenever he needed more than two seconds in the pocket.

Heavy pressure in the red zone led to Brady lobbing an ill-advised pass toward the front left pylon in the second quarter, a poor decision that resulted in an interception that cost the Patriots points for the second straight week.

Brady took three sacks in the first half alone, matching what had been his season total for the year. The tackle play from both Marshall Newhouse and Marcus Cannon stood out, and not for the reasons they would prefer. Ted Karras also took a holding penalty that negated a scramble by Brady that would have converted a third-and-5.

Things were much improved in the second half, when the Patriots ran for 111 yards in the second half and allowed just one sack.

Phillip Dorsett

The Patriots aren’t exactly super-stocked at receiver, and they lost a key one early when Phillip Dorsett left with a hamstring injury. With a short week upcoming, Dorsett’s availability could make Thursday night’s challenge a little bit harder.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.