It was a run-and-gun type of day for the New England Patriots as they hurried up into cutup mode against the Denver Broncos. It wasn’t the 45-10 playoff loss that the Broncos endured last January, but it was a chilling 31-21 loss that was highlighted, for the third time this season, by a fourth quarter comeback fallen short.
Too little, too late has been the name of the game as the Broncos tried to rally back after being down 31-7 until there was 1 minute, 8 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Broncos got to that point because they were unable to stop the Patriots on third down. The Patriots went 11-for-17 on third down with plays of 25 yards on 3rd and 14, 24 yards on 3rd and 1, and 25 yards on 3rd and 12. They also set a franchise record with 35 first downs in the game.
Believe it or not, Peyton Manning had a better game than Tom Brady, statistically. He went 31-for-44 for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns, but fumbled the ball once. That’s good enough for a 116.2 QBR. Brady went 23-for-31 for 223 yards and one touchdown for a 104.6 QBR. He also added a 4-yard rushing touchdown.
This season, Brady hasn’t had to have 300+ yard passing games and three or four touchdown games. That’s because for just the second time in his career, Brady has a legitimate running attack behind him. The Patriots had 111 rushing yards by halftime and 251 rushing yards when all was said and done. Stevan Ridley went of with a career-high 151 yards on 28 carries and a score. Talk about turning a new New England leaf.
While the Broncos couldn’t get points up on the scoreboard in the first half despite crossing the 50-yard line multiple times, it was the ineffectiveness of the defense that really stood out. Wes Welker made second year cornerback Chris Harris look like a dog toy as he got open in the underneath routes multiple times and had 13 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Jack Del Rio and the Broncos’ coaching staff simply couldn’t come up with an effective game plan for the Patriots passing or rushing attack. We saw linebacker Joe Mays trying to cover Welker, we saw three man blitzes that looked like a walk in the park with Gisele for Brady, and we saw a defense that simply looked run over, worn out, and beat over the head with a musket.
Not all was sour for the Broncos, however. After Demaryius Thomas fumbled for the second week in a row after catching a deep ball, he rallied for 188 yard and 9 catches. He seemed to be the go-to man for Manning down field as the Patriots simply didn’t have an answer for him.
The Broncos were effective on third down also going 7-for-13. They simply just didn’t have the ball in their hands enough. The Patriots dominated the time of possession 35:49 to 24:11.
Von Miller had a huge game with 2 sacks, 4 tackles, and a pass break up. He’s a guy that brings it every game, and on Sunday he seemed to be the only one on defense to show up to play.
Another AFC loss is in the books, but remember despite the 2-3 record, the Broncos are 1-0 in the AFC West. No game is bigger than the next with the team traveling to San Diego for a Monday Night game before getting to their bye week.
This is a loss that needs to be highlighted Sunday night on the 4+ hour flight back from Boston, but it needs to be laid to rest after. There’s too much preparation that needs to go into the next one. A calamity on one coast doesn’t need a sequel on the other coast.