One of the few complaints heard around Patriots Nation centers around Bill Belichick’s insistence on having so many players on the roster that contribute only on special teams. Sunday night’s game in Denver should put that argument to rest for quite awhile.
For the second game in a row, the Patriots special teams units were a huge difference in the game and were a big reason why the team was victorious.
New England and Denver are teams heading in opposite directions. The Patriots have won five in a row while the Broncos have dropped five straight. A major reason why this game turned into a blowout was the dominance of the Patriots STs units and Denver’s continued awful special teams play. The Broncos are done now, and can only play the spoiler. And it wasn’t the play of their QBs this week, it was their special teams and defense.
There were four huge plays by Joe Judge’s units that turned this game from a potentially close game into a rout. Let me caveat this by saying something straight out. I’ve been hearing the “Special Teams was the only reason the Patriots won” narrative. That doesn’t give hardly enough credit to Tom Brady and the offense. The Patriots offense scored on seven straight possessions. The Denver defense couldn’t stop the Patriots offense all night long. But back to the four key special teams plays.
- After the Patriots went three and out on their opening possession, they were forced to punt. Ryan Allen’s punt had very good hang time and Jonathan Jones put pressure on Isaiah McKenzie and he muffed the punt. Jones blasted McKenzie and rookie Jacob Hollister recovered the ball and the offense was in business. It was a huge turn of events. Brady later hit Rex Burkhead for a 14-yard touchdown and the Patriots were off and running.
- Denver answered by driving down and kicking a field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Denver kicked three yards deep to Dion Lewis. Lewis found a seam and burst thru the poor coverage by the Broncos and raced 103 yards for a touchdown. He received two key blocks by reserve tight ends Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister along the way
- Rex Burkhead, who had a good night on the offense, provided the third key special teams play of the night. He burst thru the interior on a Denver punt and smothered the kick for a key punt block. The short field allowed the Patriots to kick a field goal. Which should have been a touchdown. I’m still waiting to the see the ball hit the ground there…
- The final key play was early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots had started on their own six-yard line at the end of the third quarter. They moved to the Denver 41 where the drive stalled. But on 4th and 5, Denver jumped offside on the punt giving Brady and offense a fresh set of downs. Seven plays later Brady put the dagger in with a touchdown pass to James White, finishing a 16-play, 94-yard drive that took 7:31 seconds off the clock.
The Patriots special teams have been steadily improving as the season winds along. In their last game against San Diego, they tackled a punt returner for a safety and Lewis ran back a kickoff in that one of 71 yards. The coverage units have been outstanding and Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs are putting teams constantly in the hole behind the 25-yard line.
The only downer from the game was ST’s Captain Matthew Slater, pulling a hamstring in the game last night and not returning.
But if they continue to play at this kind of high level, the sky is the limit. They can match up with just about anyone they play and having an STs unit that can give the team a boost like that is outstanding.
We’re on to Mexico….