Denver may be a place where the Patriots have historically had problems, but New England put together a solid outing against the Broncos Sunday night as they improved to 7-2 on the season.
New England came to play, taking it to Denver early and forcing Brock Osweiler and the Broncos to have to play from behind all night after building an early lead that they never relinquished. Tom Brady and the offense never let up and coupled with some terrific special teams play, the Patriots put up 41 points in a place where they traditionally haven’t done too well.
Here’s a look at some of the things that stood out in the win.
1) The Patriots got a solid special teams performance – The Patriots did a great job on special teams from the start of the game, making a big play after the Broncos forced a three-and-out on their opening series. Jonathan Jones provided great coverage down the field as Denver’s Isaiah McKenzie muffed the punt and Jones was there immediately to make a big hit, which allowed Jacob Hollister to make the fumble recovery. Had Jones not gotten down the field as fast as he did and knocked McKenzie out of the play, the Broncos may have had an opportunity to recover the football.
From there, they got a huge play from Dion Lewis, whose 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was a thing of beauty. On the play it was fun to watch Lewis accelerating through the kickoff coverage and then up the sideline, where the Broncos coverage team clearly misjudged his speed. For a brief moment it looked like they slowed down and seemingly thought they could shove him out of bounds, but Lewis kicked into another gear and was off to the races. It was a key play, coming just after the Broncos had answered the Patriots touchdown with a field goal, and it put New England in control of the game early at 14-3.
Rex Burkhead took it a step further early in the second quarter when he sliced through and blocked a Denver punt, with the Patriots recovering at the Denver 30-yard line. From there the Patriots drove to the Broncos 10-yard line where Stephen Gostkowski hit the 28-yard field goal, extending their lead to 20-6. Those were two key plays that lead to 10-points, giving New England the edge they needed to quiet the Denver crowd and blow the game open.
2) Martellus Bennett made an impact early – Bennett played just seven snaps on Sunday night but he definitely made them count. His first reception came on New England’s second offensive series, catching a 27-yard pass on the first play to put them into Denver territory. From there he caught another one for five yards, and provided a spark to an offense that was without Chris Hogan and his presence clearly made an impact in terms of opening things up against Denver’s defense. Overall they used him sparingly, with the veteran playing just 7 snaps while catching three passes for 38-yards. However, it was definitely great to have him back int he fold.
Rex Burkhead played well Sunday night.
3) Big night for Burkhead – While Burkhead made a splash on special teams, his performance on the offensive side of the football was also terrific. He carried 10 times for 36 yards while also catching all three passes thrown his way, including a 14-yard touchdown on New England’s opening drive after the Broncos muffed punt. It was a big opportunity for Burkhead, as the Patriots opted to make Mike Gillislee inactive for this game and he definitely took advantage. He finished the night playing 36 offensive snaps (51%), as well as 10 on special teams.
4) Great to see Dwayne Allen get on the board – It’s been a difficult run for Allen, who up until Sunday night had failed to register a reception from Tom Brady. However, that finally came to an end after the tight end hauled in his first catch as a Patriot, which was an 11-yard touchdown in the second quarter that put the Patriots up 27-9 just before the half.
It was great to see because two possessions before that, Brady hit him in the hands from one-yard out but Allen had a defender right on him and couldn’t quite haul it in. So the fact Brady went back to him was great to see, and it was a good job by Allen to make the play and finally get the monkey off his back.
5) The offensive line played terrific – One of the biggest things that stood out was the fact New England’s offensive line was absolutely fantastic against Denver’s defense. LaAdrian Waddle filled in admirably in Marcus Cannon’s absence, keeping Von Miller and the rest of the Broncos’ defenders away from Brady. Denver did sack him once and hit him four times, but that’s still an impressive night for a defense that normally has a knack for getting to the quarterback.
They also did a great job run-blocking, providing a great push up front, which was one of the reasons why both Burkhead and Lewis were able to be so productive.
It was one of the biggest keys of the night as had Denver been able to shut down the Patriots ground game and put pressure on Brady and keep New England’s offense off the field, things might have turned out a little differently. Needless to say, give this group a lot of credit because they really came through in a big way.
Overall it was one of the more complete performances we’ve seen this season, and it certainly came at a great time. They’ll need to try and put another one together next week, as New England will now move on to get ready to face the Raiders next Sunday afternoon in Mexico City.