New England is celebrating after the Patriots’ 16-3 victory over the Broncos. The Pats broke a four-decade old NFL record with their eighth consecutive division title. Considering the double edged sword of free agency and the salary cap, that is a milestone that is likely to never be surpassed.
On the other hand the mood in Denver is somber, as would be expected. As is the norm in every city, fans and writers focus blame on the home team for losing while neglecting to credit the opponent for a job well done. Here are a few reactions from both Denver and some national media sites in the aftermath of the Patriot defense shutting down Denver en route to their 12th win of the season.
Sports Illustrated: Patriots showcase too much depth for one-dimensional Broncos to contain
The last two weeks have emphasized why the New England Patriots are as difficult to prepare for as any team in the league. Last Monday, facing a Ravens’ defense that thrives against the run, the Patriots turned to the power-run work of LeGarrette Blount and attacked toward the perimeter—a touchdown for Malcolm Mitchell, 129 yards and a TD for Chris Hogan, etc.
Sunday, pitted against a Denver unit that can dominate at cornerback and off the edges on defense, New England took a page from the book Atlanta used in a Week 5 win at Mile High. It wasn’t so much Blount vs. the Broncos as scat back Dion Lewis and the versatile James White.
That ability to adjust week to week based on matchups is part of why the Patriots have been so good for so long. And Sunday, it also helped emphasize what a one-dimensional mess Denver’s offense has become in 2016.
The Patriots did not score many points vs. Denver’s excellent defense, but they still coasted to the finish line in a 16-3 win.
The Patriots also showed why they might be the most dangerous team in the postseason field. They have discovered a powerful running game, using a combination of smaller backs Dion Lewis and James White along with bruiser LeGarrette Blount, to neutralize Denver’s pass rush. Brady rarely tried to test the Broncos deep, preferring to hand the ball off inside or quickly dump off a short pass to Lewis, White or Edelman, who had six catches for 75 yards.
That game plan, plus vastly improved pass protection for Brady, who was sacked just twice, shows just how many different ways the Patriots can win.
“Our offensive line took a lot of pride this week in their preparation for this game. They’ve been working their tails off all year,” Edelman said. “You can say they’re young, you can say this or that, but they’ve been playing solid football. We were able to run the ball pretty decently when we had to, and when we can protect, it makes things easier.”
But the biggest revelation might be the Patriots’ defense, which has held each of the last five opponents to 23 points or fewer.
On Sunday, Ryan intercepted Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian on Denver’s only trip into the red zone. Denver failed to record a first down on five consecutive possessions to start the second half. The Patriots sacked Siemian four times while holding Denver to just 58 rushing yards, 13 of which came on Justin Forsett’s first carry of the game.
“I thought we deserved to win,” Belichick said.
Brady finished 16 of 32 for 188 yards and it was enough for New England (12-2) to retain its hold on the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed with two games left in the regular season. It was a rare win in Denver for Brady, who improved to 3-7 lifetime in the Mile High City.
New England set an NFL record with the eighth consecutive division title.
The mistake-prone Broncos (8-6) lost their hold on the sixth and final wild-card berth. They need help and in all likelihood wins in their final two games, against AFC West rivals Kansas City and Oakland, to reclaim a postseason berth and the chance to defend last season’s Super Bowl title.
Siemian finished 25 of 40 for 282 yards, hamstrung by an ineffective rushing attack and failing to get his offense untracked against the Patriots. He also had a costly interception.
The Broncos were in the red-zone to start the second quarter, but an interception by quarterback Trevor Siemian would give the Patriots the ball back.
The interception proved costly as Brady made-up for the lack of completions in the first quarter and drove the Patriots down the field for a touchdown to make it 10-3.
Fans at the stadium were left shocked as the Broncos elected to end the half trailing 10-3 after getting the ball back with over a minute left and all three timeouts.
Coach Gary Kubiak later defended that decision saying that field position and the Patriots timeouts played a factor in the decision.
The Broncos would go three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half. And that set the tone for most of second half for the Broncos offense.
But the hope was misleading. The offensive momentum early resulted in just three points.
An interception of a Trevor Siemian pass by cornerback Logan Ryan at the Patriots’ 8-yard line turned the tide early in the second quarter. All the Broncos’ season-long struggles on offense returned soon after. New England turned the turnover into a touchdown drive, making it 10-3, and its defense dominated from that point.
“Yeah, I can’t make that mistake. It just hurts us,” Siemian said, adding that the offense’s performance was “frustrating, no doubt. Especially earlier on when we were moving the ball really well and have no points to show for it. A lot of that’s on me. Missed a couple opportunities to get us points early on, and that comes back to haunt you.”
The Broncos’ defense, while depleted, kept them in the game and ensured Tom Brady’s latest trip to Denver would be trying but not insurmountable. Brady finished 16-of-32 for only 188 yards and a 68.2 passer rating.
Siemian, meanwhile, was 25-of-40 for 282 yards, but a big chunk of those yards came late when New England backed off protecting its 13-point lead.
DenverBroncos.com: Three Keys Unlocked: Patriots 16, Broncos 3
Despite a muffed Jordan Norwood punt that the Patriots recovered, leading to a game-opening field goal, the Broncos had momentum early until Logan Ryan intercepted Trevor Siemian on the first play of the second quarter, setting the Patriots up inside Denver territory after a 46-yard return. New England scored its only touchdown on a LeGarrette Blount 1-yard plunge seven plays later and led the rest of the way.
“That’s a 14-point swing in a lot of ways,” Head Coach Gary Kubiak said.
The Broncos’ promising first quarter — in which they rolled up 146 yards and gained seven first downs while forging a 3-3 tie — evaporated into a mid-game slump that saw them go six consecutive possessions without a first down.
The Denver Broncos needed a win in the worst way this week against their AFC rival New England Patriots. In the frigid cold sub-18 degree weather, the game figured to be one conducting business as usual and the other desperate for a win.
On defense, the Broncos reminded Tom Brady that he doesn’t have good games in Denver for a reason. All game long, the defense did their job. Unfortunately, Trevor Siemian and the offense derp’d their way to a red zone turnover and complete ineptitude everywhere else.
This 16-3 blowout is entirely on the players on offense and now the playoffs are highly unlikely for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
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