Coming off the bye week, the New England Patriots began their second half with a primetime game on the road against the Denver Broncos. The Patriots dominated for the whole game as they never were down as they went on to destroy the Broncos 41-16. The Patriots dominated in all three facets of the game, especially with Special Teams being the unit to create such an early lead in the first quarter. We will take a look at how each unit played last night.
After the Patriots went three and out after the first drive, it seemed that this would have been a real tough test for this Patriots’ offense. After the Broncos muffed the punt, the Patriots offense got the ball back and never looked back. They scored on the next seven drives, including four touchdowns from the offense. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns to three different receivers (two running backs and one tight end). He was very calm in the pocket all game, as he was only sacked once the entire night. He completed passes to nine different receivers, including one to newly acquired Martellus Bennett, who was only the field for 10 percent of the offensive snaps. One of Brady’s touchdowns went to Dwayne Allen, which was also his first catch of the season. Now with Bennett adding to the depth at wide receiver, look for Allen to start working harder to keep his position on the depth chart.
Dion Lewis was the leader of the rushing attack, with 55 yards and a touchdown. Lewis has really been working hard over these past two weeks, and his stats have shown how hard this man has worked. Rex Burkhead was the second leading rusher on the team and also caught a touchdown pass after the muffed punt by the Broncos. Both these running backs were studs both on offense and special teams (we will get to that later), and makes our deep backfield even scarier for opposing defenses.
Offense Grade: A+
Although the Broncos’ offense has not been one of the best units this year, they have the weapons to have a breakout game and the Patriots contained their stars really well. Although Malcolm Butler struggled to contain Emmanuel Sanders, Butler kept him out of the endzone which is what really matters. Stephon Gilmore, after spending some time off the field and studying the playbook, did a great job of keeping Demaryius Thomas from making any big plays on offense. When Thomas did score the only touchdown for the Broncos, the Patriots lead was still at 11 in the middle of the third quarter. Holding the Broncos to three field goals in the first half and one touchdown in the second half was a great sign to how this defense has improved every week since getting off to a rough start.
They allowed their season-low in total yards (339) and allowed their second-least first downs on the season (17). WIth Patrick Chung getting on the board with his first interception on the year last night, this defensive unit is really coming together at the right time.
Defense Grade B+
All season the special teams have been playing great, but last night was their best performance of the season. Ryan Allen only had one punt last night early in the first quarter, which led to a fumble recovery by Jacob Hollister deep inside the Broncos territory. That play was huge to swing momentum towards the Patriots early on. Then after the Broncos scored on a field goal to make it 7-3, Dion Lewis took the ball 103 yards to give the Patriots their first return touchdown of the season. After both these big plays on special teams, it seemed that the momentum was fully on the Patriots side and they never looked back. Early in the second quarter, Rex Burkhead made a huge block on the Broncos first punt of the game that eventually led to the Patriots making the contest a three score game halfway through the second quarter. These key plays on special teams is what give the Patriots that championship-type edge in almost every game they play. And when it’s the running backs who are also scoring on offense who make these big plays, you know how important each play can be in the game.
Stephen Gostkowski kept doing his thing, as he was perfect on all seven of his kicks last night (five extra points and two field goals within 30 yards). It is important for him to stay consistent as the Patriots are on the road for the majority of their final games.
Special Teams Grade: A+
This may be the third time I have said this, but this was the best performance of the season as a team so far. The Patriots will practice all week in Colorado before heading to Mexico City to play the Oakland Raiders. Practicing in the higher elevations will be important for this team, as I discussed in my post last week. That will be the least road game before the team goes home to host the Miami Dolphins.
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