January 14, 2006
The Patriots Just Beat Themselves
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
DENVER, CO -- So this is what it feels like.
This is what it feels like to lose a postseason game and have your team’s playoff dreams come to an end. This is what it feels like to have an entire season be washed away, only to leave you sitting here waiting for April just to see what new players the team may be drafting.
If you’re a New England Patriots fan, it's been a while since you've felt this way. Maybe you could have handled watching the Broncos pounding the ball against New England’s defense and earning tough yards and scoring points. You probably could have even dealt with a couple of big plays by Jake Plummer here and there, only to watch Denver’s running game find a way to get them into the endzone and eventually wear the Patriots down.
But if you’re a Patriots fan you can’t be feeling too good about staying up late, only to watch your own team beat themselves.
As a matter of fact, quite honestly it was difficult to watch.
Five turnovers later, three of which were critical, made it difficult and eventually impossible for Tom Brady and company to get back in the game.
It’s one thing to lose a hard fought game, but it’s another to watch this team beat themselves. It’s something that head coach Bill Belichick was obviously frustrated with when it was over.
“They played well and so I give them credit for the way they performed, for what they did, and for winning the game,” said Belichick after the game of Denver. “There’s really not much more to say.”
“It’s hard to win when you give the ball away.”
The Patriots battled back and forth in the early going, and finally appeared like they were going to begin putting the pressure on the Broncos. They stopped Denver on 4th down at the 3-yard line early in the second quarter, and an interception by Asante Samuel on the Broncos’ ensuing drive later set up the team’s first FG and gave them a 3-0 lead.
It was the only lead they’d ever see, and also left them at a point in the game that they’d probably like to have back.
Because frankly it was all downhill from there.
It all started with running back Kevin Faulk, who fumbled the ball at the Patriots 40-yard line on the team's next offensive possession. Then one play later Asante Samuel was called for a pass interference penalty after replays clearly showed that it was Ashley Lelie who pushed off of Samuel on the play. The play set up 1st and goal from the one and the Broncos took it in to take the lead 7-3 with 1:42 left in the first half.
Then to make matters worse, on the team’s ensuing kickoff return, rookie Ellis Hobbs fumbled the football on the return and Denver recovered, which later lead to a 50-yard field goal by kicker Jason Elam. On that play it was the kicker who would force the turnover after punter Todd Sauerbaun, who handles the kickoff duties for the Broncos, was the one who made the tackle and stripped the ball from Hobbs. Denver would take a 10-3 advantage into the locker room at half-time, and all things considered the Patriots could have been in worse shape.
But it all unraveled in the second half, and started with the most unlikely of candidates in quarterback Tom Brady. After the Patriots defense held on the Broncos opening drive, Brady lead the Patriots all the way down to the Broncos 14-yard line, and although the Patriots had to settle for a 32-yard field goal the Patriots were still very much in the game trailing just 10-6 and appeared poised to begin a better second half.
They stopped Denver on their ensuing drive, and again took the ball down to the Broncos 5-yard line. At that point it appeared New England was going in for a score to take the lead, but instead Brady was picked off by Broncos' defensive back Champ Bailey on an ill-advised pass from Brady to Troy Brown, which was returned 100-yards to the Patriots one yard line. The only bright spot on the play was that New England tight end Ben Watson came all the way back down the field on the play and knocked Bailey out of bounds, which also appeared to force a touchback after Bailey fumbled the ball away on the hit. Unfortunately for New England a challenge by Belichick came up empty, and the Broncos would then score a touchdown to take a 17-6 lead.
New England came right back, this time driving to Denver’s 25-yard line. But after the drive stalled and they decided to settle for a 43-yard field goal attempt by the normally reliable Adam Vinatieri. Unfortunately even Vinatieri got caught up in the team’s misfortune and missed wide right.
The Patriots defense would hold Denver on the next possession and force a punt, but then the normally sure-handed Troy Brown muffed the punt and Denver recovered. Three plays later it lead to yet another touchdown to give the Broncos a 24-6 advantage.
But Brady fought right back, connecting on a 73-yard pass to Deion Branch which helped set up a 4-yard touchdown pass David Givens to pull New England back to within 11 at 24-13 with 8:09 left in the game.
Unfortunately it was too little, too late. Denver ran the clock down and left the Patriots with not enough time to make one final comeback, and later put the game away with a 34-yard field goal with 3:20 left in the game to increase Denver’s advantage to 27-13.
The Patriots were then called for an illegal block in the back on the ensuing kickoff, placing their final gasp for a comeback at their own 11 yard line. They would then lose Givens to an injury on their first play from scrimmage, and then threw a deep ball to Andre Davis that was picked off by John Lynch which put the game away for Denver.
It was a frustrating night any way you look at it, and in the end Belichick wasn’t interested in trying to give reasons why his team lost. He summed it up very simply.
“Denver played better that’s why they won,” said Belichick. “Give them credit.”
Site-specific editorial/photos Copyright 2001-2004 PatsFans.com. This website is an unofficial and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school, team, or league.