If you had told me at the start of the day that Peyton Manning would throw for 345 yards and three touchdowns but would lose the game by two scores, I would have had a hard time believing you.
On Sunday it was the offensive matchup we expected and the defensive shootout we may not have. In my preview post for this game I said it would be up to the defense to determine a winner. Well in the fourth quarter that proved true. After what could have been a costly fumble by Stevan Ridley, Rob Ninkovich and the Patriots’ defense one upped the Broncos’ D and forced Willis McGahee to fumble. That in turn sealed the deal for the Pats to walk away victorious.
Tom Brady led the offense at the speed of light in the first half. They took the no huddle to a new level and the Broncos’ defense couldn’t keep up. They limited the amount of substitutions Denver was able to make and wore down the line with an impressive run game. The Patriots rushed for 251 yards compared to the Broncos 70. Ridley had another solid game with 28 carries for 151 yards.
Stevan Ridley had another impressive performance with 151 yards and a touchdown. (FILE:USPresswire)
They were almost unstoppable on third down conversions going 11 for 17 including a big 17 yard pickup in the third quarter by Danny Woodhead that would eventually lead to the Patriots taking a 24-7 lead. It was a very impressive performance and the offensive line was able to execute very well on these plays. Unfortunately they slipped up one too many times while trying to protect Brady. In the second half, more than once he did a phantom duck for fear that a defender was right behind him. Ryan Wendell had a very difficult time and was not able to secure the center and eliminate a Denver pass rush right up the middle.
On the defensive side of the ball the Patriots were able to hold McGahee to 51 yards. Once again they proved they could take away a team’s weapon and force them to go elsewhere. Unfortunately they were dealing with Manning and he can put the ball wherever he wishes. Luckily he wasn’t able to execute too many long balls to burn the Patriots. Demaryius Thomas had nine receptions for 188 yards, far ahead of the next closest receiver McGahee with 51 yards.
Devin McCourty clearly still has work to do as those pass interference penalties are adding up. The Patriots had six penalties for 59 yards so there is room for improvement. McCourty needs to work with his coach on turning around to see the ball. If he at least starts to look at the ball I’ll forgive him if he gets called for interference. Overall the secondary did their job. They were able to cover the receivers enough to enable Jerod Mayo and Ninkovich to each get a sack on Manning. They also covered the middle well and kept the Broncos passing game to the sidelines.
At the end of the game it came down to which defense made the last play. The Patriots were able to hold Manning to only three touchdowns and kept him on the field for almost 10 minutes less than Brady. We knew what we were getting on offense but the key to victory was the defense continuing to play the way it has all season long.