Thoughts on the tough loss to the New England Patriots at Mile High Stadium (In no particular order):
- After all was said and done yesterday, I really just had to give the Patriots a ton of credit. New England essentially did everything that a team has to do to win on the road in the NFL. They weathered the early storm from the home team, they convincingly won the turnover battle, they changed the tempo of the game when they were in disarray, they hardly committed any penalties, and they kept their foot on the gas when they had an opportunity to finish it. The Broncos have benefited in recent weeks from the opponent getting very conservative with a small lead late in the game. New England did the opposite. In what reminded me of the old Mike Shanahan offenses in Denver, New England stayed aggressive and scored touchdowns rather than field goals down the stretch to put it away. The Patriots looked very experienced and extremely comfortable. The Broncos looked young and lost their poise. I believe Denver is an improving football team and is headed in the right direction, but it was apparent yesterday that they still have some work to do.
- With all that said, my very next reaction was that there is no need to overreact or to dwell on this one. They need to learn from their mistakes and forget about the loss. That was not a catastrophic defeat by any means. The Broncos still control their own destiny so they need to stay focused and bounce back with a better effort this weekend. There is still a lot to play for, and who knows, maybe this loss can be a turning point of the season.
- The offensive success early in the game was exciting to see. Unfortunately, the 3 turnovers in the 2nd quarter completely deflated the team. Early on it looked like Denver would be the team to score 41 points rather than the other way around. Denver was dominating the time of possession, total yardage and 1st down statistics until they caught the turnover bug. New England ended up winning all of those statistics at the end of the game, but they were closer than you would think. I believe the offense has been improving a lot over the last few weeks, and the New England game was further evidence of that. If they can clean up the mistakes I think we will see them scoring a lot more points the rest of the way.
- I know I’ve been harping on it, but I still do not understand why the Denver defense has such a difficult time forcing turnovers. Rahim Moore dropped an easy interception early in the game which is a play he has to make. The Broncos are ranked 12th in the AFC in regards to takeaways. When the defense is giving up yards left and right like they were yesterday, they have to take the ball away to neutralize the opponent. I think Dennis Allen needs to work overtime on the strip drill this week. It also wouldn’t hurt to get the defensive backs in front of the Jugs Machine to work on their hands a bit.
- It has gotten to the point where it is easy to see Tim Tebow is improving as a passer. His stat line from yesterday may not show it as much, he finished 11 for 22 with 194-yards passing, but if you watch the film his accuracy and velocity are clearly improving. He also finished the game with 93-yards rushing and 2 scores, and when the offense is clicking he does an amazing job of keeping the defense off balance. I think that is what makes him such a dangerous weapon. I for one would love to see him as the starter in 2012 with a full offseason under his belt.
- Tom Brady was stupendous. There is not much more to say besides that. He was extremely comfortable back there and Denver never got any sustained pressure or made anything difficult for him. He simply picked the Broncos secondary apart. The New England offensive line did a great job limiting the Denver pass rush.
- The penchant for the Broncos to commit big penalties at inopportune times returned against the Patriots. Several defensive penalties on 3rd down kept New England drives alive and the worst one came on the Patriots initial possession of the 3rd quarter. Denver desperately needed a quick 3 and out to get back in the game, and they immediately got New England into a 3rd and 24 at their own 6-yard line. On the next play, Robert Ayers committed an illegal hands to the face penalty that gave the Patriots a first down. Denver eventually stopped them on the drive, but not until they pushed the ball out to midfield. That mistake cost the Broncos probably 40 yards of field position, and Denver worked with long fields the rest of the half. That penalty is inexcusable and was the beginning of the end for the Broncos.
- It was apparent that the Denver defense missed Brian Dawkins. They are just a different unit without him in the lineup. The young safeties, Rahim Moore in particular, just aren’t ready to be on the field for long stretches against a top flight NFL quarterback. Hopefully Dawkins’ injury doesn’t keep him off the field much longer, but if it does the Broncos need the youngsters in their secondary to pick it up.
- What Dawkins is to the Denver defense, Willis McGahee is to the Broncos offense. Unfortunately, Willis just can’t stay on the field. Lance Ball filled in admirably after Willis went down early in the game, but it was his fumble in the 2nd quarter that started the avalanche of mistakes that followed. Denver is going to have to pick up another tough running back in the offseason so there is not such a drop off when McGahee has to miss some time.
- I was worried about defending the New England tight ends before the game, but apparently I was the only one. It seemed that no one even attempted to cover Aaron Hernandez.
- Due to a wild loss by the Oakland Raiders yesterday, the Broncos can win the AFC West by beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the season finale. Nothing else matters the rest of the way if Denver can get that win. Alternatively, Denver can win the AFC West this weekend if they beat the Buffalo Bills and the Raiders lose. I don’t want to back into the playoffs. Let’s get back on track and beat the Bills!
- I love seeing the Mile High Stadium crowd in full effect. The atmosphere looked awesome. Broncos Country needs to represent in the season finale against the Chiefs! I’ll be there; who’s joining me??
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Tags: Aaron Hernandez Brian Dawkins Broncos Country Buffalo Bills Dennis Allen Denver Broncos Kansas City Chiefs Lance Ball Mile High Stadium New England Patriots Oakland Raiders Rahim Moore Robert Ayers Tim Tebow Tom Brady Wes Welker Willis Mcgahee