Check out the final grades and analysis below.
Denver - 31
New England - 34
|Position Unit||1st-Half Grade||Final Grade|
Game Analysis for the New England Patriots
Pass Offense: Granted, the Broncos suffered a rash of injuries that made things a lot easier. But the Patriots simply executed much better in the second half, as Brady found holes everywhere when Denver switched to zone. Give credit to the offensive line, which stymied the Broncos edge-rushers after a tough first half.
Run Offense: Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen did carry the load in the second half, and while neither was particularly explosive, they held on to the ball. On a night where the pigskin was more like a greased pig, that’s good enough to earn passing marks.
Run Defense: The Patriots never really stopped the run, as the Broncos finished with a whopping 280 yards on 5.9 yards per carry. That’s partially a by-product of playing nearly the entire game in sub-packages, but it’s nonetheless concerning how easily Denver moved the ball on the ground.
Pass Defense: Give the Patriots’ decimated secondary tremendous credit for coming up with a couple of critical stops in crunch time. Aqib Talib contained Demaryius Thomas for the most part, and Logan Ryan made a nice read to pick off Manning. A gutsy performance from a unit that will wake up sore in the morning.
Special Teams: What a time for a muffed punt recovery. With the offense stalling out, Nate Ebner was able to pounce on the ball after old friend Wes Welker did not call off his blockers in time. Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning field goal punctuated what has been a fantastic season for the veteran kicker.
Coaching: Bill Belichick’s decision to take the wind instead of the ball in overtime brought back shades of Marty Mornhinweg’s infamous decision years ago, but things worked out in the end for the Pats. And Josh McDaniels, who was Public Enemy No. 1 at halftime, came up with some nice pick and rub plays to spark the offense. I’ll say it again—McDaniels is not always to blame.
First-Half Analysis for the New England Patriots
Pass Offense: A blown assignment from Nate Solder caused a Tom Brady fumble, which really got the Denver snowball rolling. Following that, Brady and the offense continued to struggle, with Von Miller constantly wreaking havoc and the receivers failing to get open. A disappointing showing for a unit that looked to have a decisive edge coming into the game.
Run Offense: This is pretty simple: If you can’t hold on to the ball, you have no chance. Stevan Ridley’s fumble set the tone for New England’s disastrous start, and LeGarrette Blount also coughed it up two possessions later. Looks like Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen will get the snaps the rest of the night, especially with the Pats needing to pass to cut into the lead.
Run Defense: The Patriots were hellbent on containing the passing game; as a result, the Broncos running backs have absolutely gashed the Pats on the ground to the tune of six yards per carry. You can’t complain with the game plan given Denver’s air attack, but given the deficit and frigid conditions, expect a change in approach.
Pass Defense: The Pats have tried to take away the middle and force Manning to throw outside the numbers. That has worked decently well, as Manning has only compiled 4.4 yards per attempt. Given the injuries plaguing the unit, not a bad showing here.
Special Teams: Devin McCourty has been returning kicks this half, albeit to relatively unspectacular results. Julian Edelman also joined the fumble party, though Michael Buchanan recovered his gaffe. The Pats did recover a muffed punt, but not with enough time to score.
Coaching: It’s all about creating some spark at halftime, as the Patriots look shell-shocked and defeated already. You can’t count a Brady-led team out this early, but unless the play-calling gets a lot more imaginative, the Pats have no chance.