Handing Out The Attaboys

Derek Havens
January 15, 2012 at 09:00am ET

NFL notes: Don't be surprised if Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers rise up for Patriots
New Patriots DL Danny Shelton preps to hit the hill
Patriots center David Andrews excited with his new Georgia Bulldog teammates
Patriots notebook: Patriots hold bonding time at Children’s Hospital
Guregian: Patriots Hall of Famer Matt Light says there’s more to being a successful offensive lineman than the measurables

In almost any game, there are always players who play well and those who struggle throughout the course of the contest. After New England's 45-10 win over the Denver Broncos to advance to the AFC Championship game, I decided to hand out some attaboys to a few players who earned an honorable mention in a great team performance Saturday evening.

Tom Brady's performance was arguably the best of his Hall of Fame career. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Tom Brady was incredible as the Patriots started their playoff run. With the exception of his first quarter interception, Brady was a force to be reckoned with on Saturday. He set a franchise playoff record with 363 yards and tied an NFL record with six touchdowns.

- Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez showed why they are the best tight-end duo the NFL has seen in quite some time. The second-year players were unstoppable as they ate up the middle of the field and displayed their versatility. They combined for 14 receptions, 200 yards through the air - Hernandez added a team leading 61 yards rushing - and four touchdowns.

- The entire offensive line deserves some credit as they gave Brady and the offense time to execute throughout the game. Denver, who arguably has the best pass rushing combination in the NFL with Dumervil and Miller, were held without a sack in the contest.

- Similar to the offensive line, New England's defensive line was outstanding on Saturday. Vince Wilfork dominated Denver guards, Kyle Love was an animal and the line contained the potent Broncos rushing attack. Like many of you, I was worried about Andre Carter's absence in this game, but the Patriots showed they can still be very strong up front.

- Even though Patrick Chung had a poor personal foul penalty for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter, wow is it nice to have him back at full strengh. Chung was a true difference maker for the defensive unit and made his presence felt early. He was constantly around the ball and showed why he is so valuable to the Patriots defense.

- I hate to continue to lump players together, but how can I not mention the linebackers as a whole? Rob Ninkovich seemed like he was everywhere Saturday night. Ninkovich finished with 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and was huge in stuffing the Denver running game. Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes were also flying all over the field as the unit caused Denver to have 14 plays of negative yardage during the contest.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!