Broncos-Patriots Recap (Week 9): Studs, Duds, and What We Learned
Yesterday's matchup featured two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. Playing against one another for the 16th time, the game was largely one-sided. In control from essentially the very beginning, the Patriots defeated the Broncos 43-21 yesterday night.
Much like the game against the Bears, the Patriots outplayed the Broncos in practically every phase of the game. Just like in last year's regular season showdown, Tom Brady out-dueled Peyton Manning. Brady had 4 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a passer rating of 97.4; Manning, on the other hand, had a passer rating of just 80.9, along with 2 passing touchdowns and 2 interceptions. While Manning did accumulate 438 passing yards in this game, many of those yards came when the game was largely out of hand. The Broncos offense was limited to just 21 points in the game, and their run game was practically non-existent. One of the main surprises from the game was that the Patriots were able to largely shut down the Broncos' star tight end Julius Thomas, as he was limited to just 2 receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown.
The Patriots head into their bye week on an extremely high note, as their offense has averaged more than 40 points over the past 5 games. The schedule after the bye doesn't get any easier, though, as the Patriots face six teams with winning records in their seven remaining games of the regular season (Colts, Packers, Lions, Chargers, Bills, and Dolphins). Nevertheless, their victory against the Broncos was a statement win for a team that many people had lost confidence in through the first four weeks of the regular season.
Here are the main studs and duds from Sunday's game:
1. Tom Brady
The Patriots quarterback put together his fifth straight great performance. In addition to throwing 4 passing touchdowns and having a passer rating of 97.4, Brady had 333 passing yards and completed passes to 6 different receivers. The future Hall of Famer has been fantastic for the past five weeks, having thrown 18 touchdowns and just 1 interception in that span.
2. Julian Edelman
While he was his usual dominant self in the passing game (he finished the game with 9 receptions for 89 yards and 1 touchdown), his contributions as a punt returner made his performance even greater. His 84-yard punt return for a touchdown occurred roughly midway through the second quarter, and proved to be a major game-changer for the Patriots. It was Edelman's fourth punt return for a touchdown since he became a Patriot.
3. Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski's performance in this game brought back many memories of the 2011 regular season, where the tight end was practically unstoppable. He was often too much for Broncos defenders to handle, as even star linebacker Von Miller couldn't prevent him from scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Right before that play, Gronkowski made a phenomenal one-handed catch with several Broncos defenders around him. This game was clear proof that when Gronkowski is fully healthy, the Patriots offense is extremely hard to defend.
4. Patrick Chung
Initially thought to serve as safety depth and contribute on special teams, Chung has surprisingly played very well for the Patriots so far this season. His strong season continued yesterday night, as he had 3 pass deflections and surrendered just four completions on 9 pass attempts for 52 yards and one touchdown (according to Pro Football Focus). Chung was also awarded a grade of +4.9 by Pro Football Focus.
5. Run Defense
Heading into this game, stopping the run had been a major issue for the Patriots defense. However, the run defense was fantastic versus Denver, as they limited the Broncos to just 43 rushing yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.
6. Rob Ninkovich
Once again showing his knack for big plays in big moments, Ninkovich intercepted an errant throw from Peyton Manning in the first half that proved to be a big momentum-changer. Showing great awareness on that play, Ninkovich's interception provided the Patriots' offense with a short field to work with, and they ended up scoring a touchdown just five plays later.
1. Running Game
Much like the Broncos' running game, the Patriots' running game was largely non-existent yesterday. While a lot of credit should go to the Broncos' stingy run defense, the Patriots' running still looked very flat, as the unit only mustered 66 rushing yards on 25 carries.
A theme far too common in the first few games of this season, the Patriots committed an astounding 9 penalties in this game (3 of which came from cornerback Brandon Browner alone). The Patriots need to fix this issue during their bye week before they undergo the final stretch of the regular season.