Nov 2, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) leaves the field after failing to convert on a fourth down against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter of New England
The Denver Broncos flopped against the New England Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon. It was hard to watch, and the loss put some glaring issues in the spotlight. Denver struggled in all facets of the game.
The defense looked lost trying to stop Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. The offense seemed to take a step back in the run game, while there were some questions about the offensive game plan. And don’t forget the special teams, with missed field goals, and dropped snaps turning into punt returns for touchdowns. As a Bronco fan it was just hard to watch.
Allow me to take you on the journey of a confused spectator, starting with the special teams play. Brandon McManus looked shaky, to say the least. He only attempted one field goal, a clanger off the upright from 41 yards out. John Fox had a chance to call on his kicker again from beyond 50 yards later, but confidence was low, and Fox opted to keep the offense on the field, which was unable to convert on 4th down.
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The oddest event of the day had to be Edelman’s 84 yard punt return for a touchdown. First, Britton Colquitt lost control of the ball as he started to release it for his kick. Then, he picked it up, avoided the oncoming defenders and hit the ball pretty well. One would think that, with extra time to get down the field, the Broncos would have been able to get to Edelman quicker. That, however, was not what happened, as Edelman weaved his way through the Broncos and into the end zone for the touchdown.
The Broncos never seemed to be able to switch the field, and were always playing from deep in their own territory. That was a product of the Patriots scoring a lot of points, but there was more to it than that. The wind made touchbacks unlikely at times, but the Broncos return game was unable to capitalize, and had an average starting field position of their own 22 yard line. None of that is a recipe for success in the NFL, let alone against the Patriots in Foxboro.
In the category of targets, how is it possible that Jacob Tamme had more targets (5) than Julius Thomas (2)?
The defense was also unable to make anything happen. Edelman had a great day. Brandon LaFell made the most of his targets. Even Danny Amendola had two big catches. While Tom Brady danced his way between pass rushers he found Gronkowski for several big plays. It looks like he is back to being a huge threat from the tight end position.
The biggest problem for Denver was the inability to get off the field on 3rd down. The Patriots were 6-16 on 3rd down, and 1-1 on 4th down. When a defense forces that many 3rd down situations, but continues to stay on the field, it is demoralizing for the whole team.
The defense was hard to watch, but not as hard to watch as the offensive game plan and execution. It honestly looked like the Broncos had no plan going into the game. The running attack was misfiring, and credit New England for confusing Peyton Manning on a few plays. One interception was the direct result of Rob Ninkovich faking Manning into throwing the ball exactly where he wanted him to. The other came on a bad drop by a largely ineffective Wes Welker.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders had their typical big games despite the poor play, but the passing game has shifted in recent weeks, and it was apparent in New England that someone has forgotten about how much of a weapon Julius Thomas is.
Far be it from me to question the great Peyton Manning, or raise my eyebrow at the game plan of the Broncos, but I can not understand one glaring stat from the game against the Patriots. In the category of targets, how is it possible that Jacob Tamme had more targets (5) than Julius Thomas (2)? On what football field does that stat line make sense? Of course, Orange Julius ended up with 33 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Tamme had one catch for ten yards. However, watching Julius Thomas stay in to block and chip while Jacob Tamme played out wide was absolutely baffling. This has been a regular occurrence in the Broncos’ offense the last few weeks, as Thomas has disappeared from the game plan. Perhaps watching Gronkowski torch Denver’s defense made it even more infuriating, but to underutilize one of the biggest playmakers on the team in the biggest game of the season is ludicrous.
The Broncos lost this game collectively. There was no one reason why New England was able to make Denver look so bad. Rather, there were a lot of terrible things that happened on the field, which lead to the second loss of the season. The season is far from over, and the Broncos are more than likely going to win the AFC West. So, there is a chance at being the top seed in the AFC, but New England owns the tie breaker, and the Broncos are better suited to win at home than on the road. I guess Denver will see how tough the road back to the Super Bowl could really be.