Tag Archives: Trevor Siemian

Denver’s Offensive Woes Continue As the Team Struggles to 3-5 Start

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

The Broncos have lost four straight and are officially on the hot seat and can watch their hopes of making the postseason blow up with another loss on Sunday night to the Patriots. Denver is limping into this one at 3-5 and the reason they’re struggling has to do with the offense.

The defense has been holding up their end of the bargain despite last week’s anomaly in Philadelphia where everything that could go wrong did. But Denver’s offense has scored just 52 points during the current four-game losing streak. And 14 of those points came in garbage time when the game was already lost in Philly. That won’t win many games and the team is struggling to find the answers to right the ship.

Here are a few of our first impressions of the Broncos before Sunday night’s matchup.

Carousel Under Center: Quarterback Trevor Siemian has been benched and the team has turned to Brock Osweiler. Osweiler started in place of an injured and aging Peyton Manning in 2015 and played well. The highlight of his career could easily be the Sunday night game where he beat the Patriots in a thrilling overtime win. However, soon after Denver’s Super Bowl win, Osweiler bristled at GM John Elway’s waffling on whether to sign the young QB to an extension or to sign Manning to a one year deal.

Osweiler bolted to Houston for a big money contract, who could blame him? But he quickly flamed out with the Texans and with them drafting DeShaun Watson, they shipped Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns. And he couldn’t make the team there, despite the woes of the QB position in Cleveland. With the injury to QB Paxton Lynch, he’s was brought back full circle to the Broncos.

He didn’t play well in Philadelphia last week, but neither did any of the other players. Now the team is hoping he can catch lightning in a bottle twice against the Patriots and hold the season together (with their defense) until they know what they have in Lynch, who Elway spent a first-round draft pick on in 2016. He’s getting healthier and if Osweiler doesn’t want to be replaced again in Denver, Sunday night is a big one.

Running Game Needs to be the Focus on Sunday: In Denver’s first few games of the 2017 season, they ran the ball down the throat of their opposition and jumped out to a 3-1 start and people were already pencilling them in for a long playoff run, thanks in no small part to their dominant defense.

A big part of their quick start was the running game. Running back C.J. Anderson was averaging 82.5 yards per game, (nearly 100 in their three wins). But during the four-game losing streak, Anderson’s production has plummeted. He’s gotten only 152 yards the past four weeks with 78 of them coming against the Giants.

But don’t dismiss the Denver running game, or in case you need a refresher for your memory, think back to that snowy game in 2015. Anderson ran for 113 of Denver’s 179 yards and that running game opened up a big game for Osweiler who passed for 272 yards.

Denver as a team are averaging 4.2 yards per rush, which is exactly what Anderson is averaging. Jamaal Charles is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and Devontae Booker is tops with a 4.6 yard per carry average. Defensively for the Patriots here is where the game will be won or lost.

The Patriots aren’t doing a great job of stopping the run and with Malcolm Brown and Dont’a Hightower out, it will make the running game a harder option to stop. When Denver has run well, they’ve won. When they haven’t, their quarterback play has suffered and they’ve lost. It isn’t hard to see where the Patriots defensive focus will be this week.

Turnovers Have Plagued the Team During Recent Skid: Like everyone else with an offense that is struggling, the Broncos can’t afford turnovers and that is exactly what they’ve been doing during the recent losing streak. Denver right now is woeful -12 in the turnover department. One of the reasons that Siemian was benched was turnovers. In the seven games that he started, he turned the ball over 15 times with 10 interceptions and five fumbles.

On the flip side of that, the Denver defense will be looking to feed off of the normally raucous crowd of their home field and force a couple of turnovers of their own. They are feeling a bit salty after allowing 51 points in Philly and the Patriots are always Public Enemy #1 for them.

Again, going back to that 2015 game, what turned the tide? A turnover. Chris Harper muffed a punt in the second half and the Patriots went from having a double-digit lead to quickly being down and having to force an overtime. Turnovers will be key to both teams this week.

Don’t Expect Defensive Meltdown At Home: Pundits are entirely too quick to throw dirt on this Broncos team, especially the defense. Even many Broncos fans on social media have been quick to predict gloom and doom this week as the two teams will meet on primetime Sunday night.

Besides giving up the 51 points last week, particularly galling for members of the defense was HOW they gave them up. Philadelphia had over 400 yards of offense but 197 of them were on the ground. Entering the game last week, Denver had allowed just 510 yards rushing or 72.8 yards per game.

Von Miller spoke about that game and how the team was approaching the rest of the season this week to ESPN.  “We are where we are right now,” Miller said. “Right now, [Sunday] … we’re not a good football team.

“We still have time. We still have time to be great,” he continued. “We’re not a great football team right now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a great football team within us. But [Sunday], we’re not a good football team, offensively, defensively, special teams, whatever. We’re just not good right now.”

Don’t expect to see Dion Lewis running wild this week. Look for the Broncos to be much better and back to their normal selves on Sunday night.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Report Card, Week 15 Win Over the Broncos

Steve Balestrieri
December 19, 2016 at 11:38 am ET

Blount Sets Pats Record as the Defense Shuts Down Denver

The Patriots dominated the game after the first quarter yesterday and shut down the Denver Broncos using good, solid defense and an efficient, quick running winning 16-3. While it won’t win many style points, it was a satisfying, team win with very good performances in all three phases of the game.

With the victory, the Pats clinched the AFC East for a record 8th straight year and for the 14th time in the past 16 years. And what made the victory even sweeter was that it can against a heated rival and in a stadium where they’ve had trouble winning for 56 years. Coupled with the fact that they put a big dent in Denver’s playoff chances makes the win even more satisfying.

The Patriots are 7-0 on the road and 12-2 overall, they hold the top seed in the AFC and control their own destiny in terms of home-field advantage in the AFC.

So, although we had to take a couple of weeks off from our report cards, it is time to get back to it. Before hitting the All-22 coaches’ film, here are our grades for the week. We’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: C+
Tom Brady didn’t have his greatest game, and certainly didn’t light up the stat sheet going just 16-32 for 188 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He started the game 0-6, not completing a pass in the first quarter.

This was part of that was part of the game plan where the Patriots didn’t want to have to rely on the passing game to win today. Instead, the plan was on to control the clock and line of scrimmage with the running game.

Brady moved extremely well in the pocket, stepping up or sliding to avoid pressure. He made a couple of really, nice throws to Julian Edelman. The first when the Pats faced a 1st and 20, he dropped the ball deep down the sideline where #11 did a toe-tap before going out of bounds. Later he dropped another dime over the outstretched arms of the defender to Edelman for a big first down.

So, after a rough start, Brady did just what they set out to do. The offense was conservative by design and they never relinquished control once they got it.

Running Backs: B+
LeGarrette Blount wasn’t a big part of the game plan that everyone thought he’d be. The Broncos speed in the back seven negated the advantage of having the big man bulldoze his way thru the pile. He had meager stats on the day with just 31 yards but again, that was partially by design. The Patriots for this game opted to go with the quicker and shiftier Lewis. Blount, however, did get the only touchdown of the game and it set a new franchise record for rushing touchdowns (15) which he’ll probably add to in the next two weeks.

Dion Lewis had a career day getting 95 yards on 18 carries. He was the perfect answer for the Broncos dime package. They’d bring in six defensive backs to counter the pass and Brady would hand it off to Lewis. He had his heaviest workload of his Patriots career and looks like a perfect complement to Blount with the postseason approaching.

James White wasn’t anywhere nearly as effective as we envisioned in this game in our pregame matchups. Although the Patriots tried to get him heavily involved early, he was ineffective including a couple of big drops which short-circuited drives. But he nearly broke a long touchdown reception later in the game when a shoe-string tackle was all between him and the end zone.

What a difference it has been having James Develin back this season. He rarely shows up on the stat sheet, he did make a catch for 14 yards today, but the holes he opens in the running game are invaluable. Phil Simms on the telecast equated Develin to a tackle and showed him pancake Sylvester Williams the Denver nose-tackle.

Wide Receivers: C
The Patriots other than Julian Edelman didn’t target the wide receivers much. That is a testament to the respect they have for the Denver corners. The conservative approach cut out the possibility for a turnover and wasn’t pretty at times but it worked.

Julian Edelman isn’t the biggest WR, nor the fastest, but there aren’t many with more heart or tougher. Edelman is fully healthy now and has always made a living of going in dangerous places making the tough catches in traffic. He made six catches for 75 yards but that sideline catch between two defenders where he toe-tapped before going out of bounds was a beauty.

Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell each had only one catch and were targeted just three times combined. Hogan had a tough drop that killed a drive. We were expecting a bit more from those two in the game

Tight Ends: B
Martellus Bennett only had two catches for 35 yards but it was the big one for 34 yards that set the team up for a field goal in the fourth quarter that helped put the team away.

Bennett did a good job of run blocking today and with him starting to get healthy, he should become a bigger factor in the passing game.

Matt Lengel got just a few snaps in but got a tongue-lashing from Bennett on one play. Presumably for lining up in the wrong place.

Offensive Line: A+
What else can we add about the offensive line? Remember the AFCCG last January? Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware wreaked havoc on Brady as the OL was bullied, bashed and beaten on nearly every snap. Well today it was the Pats offensive line who did the pushing around. The Patriots ground out 139 tough yards in the running game to control the clock and the tempo.

Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder were flat out excellent. Miller and Ware had zero sacks, zero tackles for loss, and zero QB hits. Cannon has been going thru a rejuvenation this season with Dante Scarnecchia but even the most die-hard fans circled these last two games against Baltimore and Denver as the big tests. Well, he aced them both. Game ball to Cannon.

There were a couple of ticky-tack holding penalties on David Andrews and Joe Thuney, especially considering the mugging that Denver’s OL was getting away with early in the game.  But overall this was a truly dominant effort. Redemption game for the OL.

Defensive Line: A
The Patriots defensive line dominated in the trenches again. Denver rushed for just 58 yards on the day and averaged 3.4 yards per attempt. Alan Branch who has been excellent all season and Malcom Brown were stout at the point of attack. Brown chipped in with a sack.

The edge rushers, Trey Flowers, Jabaal Sheard, and Chris Long had an outstanding day. Flowers chipped in with two sacks, his sixth and seventh of the year. He’s peaking at just the right time. And oh, by the way, remember the worry warts who were proclaiming the doom of the Pats defense without Chandler Jones? Jones is in the middle of another late-season swoon. In Jones’ last four games he’s gotten zero sacks.

Sheard had a fantastic game with a sack, two QB hits and was playing like a beast on the edge, consistently having his way with RT Donald Stephenson.

Linebackers: A
The Patriots’ other move this season that was lambasted was the trade of Jamie Collins to Cleveland. While the jury will be out on that one until the season is over, no one can argue with the production the team is getting out of Kyle Van Noy.

He’s neither the athletic freak nor a Pro-Bowler but what he is, is a damned-good addition to the Patriots defense. Van Noy can do a bunch of things, cover the running backs either in the flat or on wheel routes, rush the passer and help on the tight ends.

He covered an early wheel route in the end zone perfectly, which forced the Broncos into settling for a field goal. He also read a screen pass in the flat and flew up to nail the play in the backfield for a loss. He blitzed up the A-gap a few times as well.

Dont’a Hightower was his usual stout presence in the running game. He was questionable in this game due to a late addition to the injury report for a knee injury but was more than up for the task.

Shea McClellin even got into the act…on offense as a decoy. It was that kind of day.

Secondary: A
The Patriots secondary had a very solid game and it begins with the play of Malcolm Butler. Butler was lined up with Emmanuel Sanders and with over the top help, he relegated him to the side of a milk carton until he caught a couple of passes in garbage time late in the 4th quarter.

Eric Rowe and Logan Ryan matched up with Demaryius Thomas and had very solid outings, for the most part taking away the deep ball and forcing Denver to take the underneath stuff.  Trevor Siemian had a nice 1st quarter but after that, the defense, specifically the secondary adjusted and he and the Broncos passing game was held in check.

Ryan turned the game on the first play of the 2nd quarter. Facing a third and short, Siemian tried to hit Sanders on a quick out pattern at the Patriots 4-yard line. Ryan read it perfectly and jumped the route, easily intercepting the pass. He returned it 46 yards to the Denver 46. Brady then led a drive to put New England up for good. It was a 14-point turnaround.

Devin McCourty had another terrific game as the QB of the back seven. His thunderous hit on Thomas jarred the ball loose on a 4th down attempt late in the game.

Special Teams: A
Stephen Gostkowski is no longer in a slump, he went back to the scene of his frustration like Cannon and helped erase some of the sting of his miss last year. He was 3-3 on field goals, right down the middle and good on his only extra point.

Ryan Allen once again did a terrific job of pinning the Broncos deep in their end. Allen’s only short punt was muffed by Jordan Norwood where Jonathan Jones was alert and recovered the ball leading to the Patriots first field goal.

The coverage units were solid although the return game was stuck in neutral. But they didn’t have any slipups this week. Edelman was back fielding punts as Cyrus Jones was a healthy scratch…not surprisingly.

Coaches: A
Bill Belichick’s game plan to use the running game wasn’t a surprise. What was, at least a little bit was the use of Lewis’ quick running instead of battering the Broncos with Blount. It worked very well and the offense controlled the clock and the tempo. Denver’s defense couldn’t tee off on Brady at all.

Josh McDaniels called a very solid game for the offense with the exception of one drive with just eight minutes left. He eschewed the running game for three straight passes which was a head-scratcher considering the success they were having at running the ball. But overall, he did exactly what they set out to do.

Matt Patricia who was under fire just a few weeks ago, has got the defense playing super situational football. After Denver moved the ball well in the first quarter, Patricia adjusted the defense and they shut them down and out from that point onward. Patricia has found roles for all of his players and not only are they comfortable within the system, their level of play has increased as they play much faster and instinctive now.

We’re on to the Jets…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Five Patriots Players to Watch Against the Broncos

Steve Balestrieri
December 17, 2016 at 9:41 am ET

The Patriots are alone at the top of the AFC and travel to Denver to take on the Broncos at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. This will be the third trip to Denver for the Patriots in the last 13 months. The situation is quite like a year ago when the Patriots visited Denver at 10-0 and the Broncos were two games back.

This meeting is a bit later in the season and unlike a year ago, the Broncos are a team desperate for a win. At 8-5, they need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Presently they sit in the #6 seed with the tiebreaker over Miami. But tough games remain against the Chiefs and Raiders so they’ll need to seal the deal at home.

The Broncos have the #1 pass defense in the league and will be looking to use their vaunted pass rush against Tom Brady and slow down the Patriots passing game. Their edge rushers Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray are productive and had big games against Brady twice last year.

The Patriots are 11-2 and the offense didn’t seem to miss Rob Gronkowski when they faced the #1 defense in the league last Monday night. Against the Ravens, the Patriots rolled up 496 yards of offense and 30 points. They’re hoping to carry that over against the team that beat them twice in 2015.

Here are our five players from a Patriots perspective to watch on Sunday:

QB Tom Brady: Brady has pretty much had his way most every team in the NFL, and that includes Denver. But not on the road, Brady is just 2-7 against the Broncos in Mile High. This has been a rivalry dominated by the home teams. In the last ten games between the two, the home team has won 9 of 10.

Brady is sure to know this and will surely be thinking about the heartbreaking loss last year in the AFC Championship Game where a two-point conversion with just 12 seconds left failed, which would have sent the game into overtime.

But the future Hall of Famer knows what’s at stake this week. With a win, the Pats clinch a first round bye and deal Denver a serious blow to their playoff hopes. A win on Sunday won’t erase a lot of bad memories in Denver, but it will go a long way in doing so.

Running Back James White: With much of the focus this week and justifiably so on LeGarrette Blount, it may be White who holds the key to attacking Denver’s defense. The Broncos haven’t been good against the run this season and Blount and Dion Lewis will bear most of the heavy lifting there. But in the passing game is where White may open things up for Brady thru the air.

Denver will be minus Brandon Marshall on Sunday, and fellow inside linebacker Todd Davis is hurting too. The Patriots will look to spread out the Broncos defense on passing downs and find mismatches by isolating White and Lewis on the linebackers. With the backs keeping the Denver defense honest, they’ll have to respect the run this time around and won’t be able to just pin their ears back and rush the QB.

Look for White to move in motion and be split out wide at times, giving Brady a look at how the Broncos coverage will be set up. If they’re forced to start using a safety on him, it will open single coverage for one of their wide receivers.

Safety Devin McCourty: The Patriots defense has been much better the past month especially in the passing game and this week the secondary will be facing a pair of very prolific receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Denver passing game hasn’t been as vertical as we’ve seen in years past but it is still a very viable one with those two receivers. And the Pats final line of defense is McCourty.

Against the Ravens last week, he picked off a deep Joe Flacco pass to Mike Wallace and the Patriots would love to see more of that this week. But with each of the receivers’ ability to go deep, McCourty will ultimately see time against both.

The Patriots game plan every week is to take away the big, chunk plays and make the opponent slowly make their way down the field. Against a young QB like Trevor Siemian who has struggled lately, this strategy will be even more important. McCourty will have a big say in how effective their strategy will be with his performance this week.

Right Tackle Marcus Cannon: The Patriots right tackle is having a career best season in 2016, but he too can recall the nightmare of the AFC Championship Game in January. Von Miller had 2.5 sacks and rode roughshod over not just Cannon but anyone who was in front of him that day. Cannon would love to turn the tables on him this season and not only setting the outside edge but opening holes in the running game as well.

Denver is second in the NFL in sacks with 38, one behind Carolina but is the most efficient pass rush team. One way to slow down Miller, Ware, and Co.? Running the football. And Cannon has been very good at opening holes from Blount to run through this season.

Cannon was just rewarded with a nice contract extension for the Patriots. Here’s an opportunity to show he’s earned it by keeping Brady upright this time and paving the way for a Patriots ground attack that should be much more effective than the last two times they faced this defense. This will be Cannon’s biggest test of the year…so far.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy: The Patriots made a trade for the misused former 2nd round pick from the Detroit Lions this fall and he’s been rewarding them with some stellar play recently. After the trade of Jamie Collins to Cleveland, the team was searching for a replacement of his production and they found it with a combination of Van Noy and Shea McClellin.

As he’s found a comfort level in the defense, Van Noy’s production has increased. He can do a bit of everything. While McClellin is generally on the field for running downs, Van Noy has taken over in coverage and for the most part has been very good. He’s also adept at rushing the passer and can bring a lot to the table.

Facing a Denver team that has struggled to run the football in 2016, Van Noy should see plenty of snaps against the Broncos on Sunday afternoon. He should see some coverage on TEs Virgil Green and A.J. Derby and it wouldn’t be surprising if he blitzes a few times up the A-gap as they mix things up with their pass rush against Siemian.

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we’ll have up-to-the-minute breaking news as well as post-game analysis.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Podcast: View Of The Oppostion – Broncos

Russ Goldman
at 6:06 am ET

This is an interview with John Rego, who is a Broncos fan living in the Boston area. He was on the show to give his Broncos fan view of the upcoming game.

Patriots – Broncos Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 16, 2016 at 8:09 am ET

The New England Patriots head out to the Mile High City as they take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 p.m.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ -TV Channel 4 in Boston. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Phil Simms as the color analyst. Tracy Woolfson will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (11-2) beat the Ravens 30-23 on Monday Night Football. Tom Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense. Shea McClellin blocked a punt and LeGarrette Blount topped the 1000-yard mark for the season and picked up his league-leading 14th rushing touchdown.

The Broncos (8-5) lost in Tennessee to the Titans 13-10. The loss was Denver’s third in the last six games and now they face New England, Kansas City, and Oakland in their final three games as they try to make the playoffs.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Broncos are meeting for the 52nd time since 1960 when the AFL first opened. No place has been tougher to win for the Patriots since they entered the league as they’re just 9-21 on the road. The series has been dominated in recent years by the whoever is playing at home. The home teams have won 9 out of the past 10 games with the only victory on the road was the Pats in December 2011 defeating the Tim Tebow led Broncos.

Denver took both games last year, a 30-24 overtime win in Mile High in November and 20-18 in the AFC Championship Game, where a missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski turned out to be the difference in the teams not going to overtime.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of Denver

Steve Balestrieri
December 15, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Patriots Can Hurt Denver’s Playoff Hopes With a Victory

The Patriots go back out on the road and travel to their own house of horrors when they take on the Denver Broncos at 4:25 p.m. on Sunday.  The Patriots obviously never cared for the thin air of Denver as they’ve traditionally played some of their worst football when visiting the Rockies. They’re hoping to change that trend with a big win this week.

The Patriots (11-2), defeated the Ravens 30-23 on Monday Night Football. Although they dominated Baltimore thru much of the game, a pair of costly special teams’ gaffes allowed Joe Flacco and the Ravens to get back into the game. However, Tom Brady shook off a slow start and was brilliant. He passed for 406 yards and three scores, his last a 79-yard clinching beauty to Chris Hogan to put the game away.

The Patriots kept a three-game lead of the Miami Dolphins who beat Arizona but lost QB Ryan Tannehill, at least for a few weeks. The Pats own the top spot in the AFC with a game lead over the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, both 10-3. The Patriots can seriously hurt Denver’s playoff chances with a win on Sunday.

The Broncos (8-5), are struggling right now, having split their last six games following a maddening trend of win-loss and are in danger of missing out on the playoffs. Denver’s last three games of the season are at home against the Patriots, at KC and then home against the Oakland Raiders. No one has a tougher schedule down the stretch.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Broncos:

Broncos Defense Has Had to Carry the Team: Denver’s defense which carried them to a Super Bowl win in 2015, is still incredibly tough against the pass and has carried the team thru a somewhat difficult season this year.

The Broncos are the #1 defense against the pass allowing just 183.5 yards per game. The pass rush with bookend edge rushers Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray are second in the league in sacks with 38. They have more interceptions (12) than touchdowns allowed (10), through the air.

With an offense that has sputtered at times this year, the defense, while still top notch, has developed some trouble spots. And although their pass defense outside with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris is outstanding, there are areas that opponents, (the Patriots), may be able to exploit. Check back with us later today for our All-22 film study on how the Pats may decide to attack.

Tom Brady and the Patriots passing offense will face their biggest test of 2016 on Sunday and they’ll need to get everyone involved if they want to come away with the victory on the road, where the Patriots are 6-0.

Denver Can Be Run on This Week: The Broncos defense has taken a big step back in their rush defense from a year ago. In 2015, Denver opponents rushed 408 times for 1337 yards and only 10 rushing touchdowns for an average of just 3.3 yards per rush.

In 2016, Denver’s opponents have rushed 390 times for 1654 yards with 12 touchdowns and a much higher 4.2 yard per rush average. Last week, the Tennessee Titans controlled the line of scrimmage and rushed for 180 yards in the 13-10 win in Nashville.

The Broncos were third against the run in 2015, but have fallen all the way to 29th this year allowing 127.2 yards per game. This week should see a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis in the running game for the Patriots. With linebacker Brandon Marshall hurting with an injury, he may miss this week’s game. That would be a significant loss for Denver, especially considering the struggles going on in the rush defense.

Siemian Still Learning On the Job: The Broncos entered 2016 with questions at the quarterback position as Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch didn’t have a heck of a lot of experience. Siemian’s numbers aren’t bad, he’s completed 61.2 percent of his passes with 230 completions of 376 passes for 2730 yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions for a QB rating of 89.2.  Denver is currently 19th in passing offense in 2016.

Siemian has some outstanding weapons to use in the passing game, with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders and has found youngster Devontae Booker out of the backfield as well. Thomas leads the team with 76 catches for 925 yards and five scores while Sanders has 75 catches but leads the team in yards with 958 with five touchdowns.

Without the deep passing game that hallmarked the Broncos offense the past few years, Siemian is capable of moving the ball and garnering yardage, but can he put up enough points to keep up with playoff teams? The Patriots may get after him a bit and try to disguise some coverages to make him hold the ball longer this week.

Running Game Has Struggled: The Broncos running game, once again a strength down the stretch in 2015 has left them wanting this season. Denver’s running game is mired in 27th place averaging just 93.8 yards per game, down 10 places from 2015.

With C.J. Anderson lost for the year, Denver has turned to Devontae Booker as their bell cow running back. He’s been underwhelming for the most part, gaining just 511 yards on 149 carries with three touchdowns. He’s averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. The team recently brought in Justin Forsett who was jettisoned by Baltimore earlier this season. Forsett played for Gary Kubiak in Houston and it is hoped that he’ll help jumpstart the moribund running game.

The Patriots have played better defense lately by being able to make their opponents one-dimensional offensively and it started with shutting down the run. With Alan Branch and Malcom Brown inside, there’s no reason to think they can’t do so again this week.

Special Teams May Play A Big Role: The Broncos special teams’ have struggled at times with their consistency in 2016, something that may come into play on Sunday. Who can forget the muffed punt last season? With the Patriots holding a two-touchdown lead, Chris Harper muffed a punt and it sparked a huge Denver comeback which culminated with an overtime win for the Broncos.

Kicker Brandon McManus has been perfect inside 40 yards this season but beyond that he’s just 9 of 13. Rookie punter Riley Dixon has averaged 41.2 yards net per punt. Rookie Kalif Raymond provided a spark in the punt return game against the Jaguars.

With the Patriots kicking game solidified in recent weeks, this is an area that the Patriots must feel good about. But the continued struggles for Cyrus Jones will have them searching for answers this week. Once again this year, the special teams play a big role deciding which of these two teams comes out victorious.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.