The Denver Broncos lost their second game of the season as they fell to the New England Patriots in overtime 34-31. The return of Wes Welker to Foxborough did not go very well for the Broncos. This contest was marred by turnovers, penalties, injuries and inconsistencies.
The Broncos built a 24-0 lead in the first half but allowed the Patriots to score 21 points in the third quarter. This was the most points allowed by the Broncos defense in any quarter this season.
After the game Peyton Manning talked about the second-half collapse. “Obviously, the momentum changed. We turned [the ball] over, gave them some momentum. It's hard when you give them a short field and put your defense in a bind. It’s difficult to overcome.”
The Broncos were able to build that lead in the first half by feeding Knowshon Moreno the rock. Moreno had over 100 yards rushing by halftime.
He finished the game with a career-high 37 carries and a career-high 224 yards rushing. His big game was the third largest in team history behind Mike Anderson (251 yards, 2000) and Clinton Portis (228 yards, 2002).
Moreno was dominant, but he did get a little banged up in overtime. He was spotted on crutches after the game and was in a walking boot due to an ankle injury. It will be interesting to see going forward how the Broncos handle their running back situation.
Manning didn’t do much on Sunday night against the Patriots, and he finished with a season-low 150 yards passing. He also had a season-low 52.8 completion percentage and 4.2 yards per attempt against the Patriots.
The passing game didn’t account for much, and none of the receivers stood out because of it. The team’s leading receiver was actually reserve tight end Jacob Tamme. He was filling in for an injured Julius Thomas.
The defense looked dominant in the first half of the game, but it was beat handily in the second half.
Von Miller had a fantastic game and finally looked like the player he used to be. He finished the game with eight tackles (six solo), two sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He also scored a 60-yard touchdown on a fumble return in the first quarter against the Patriots.
While Miller had an outstanding day, there were a few other defenders who got picked on by Tom Brady. The Patriots didn’t do much on the ground, finishing the game with 116 rushing yards (3.7 average) on Sunday night. However, they were able to move the ball through the air. Brady finished the game with 324 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Manning talked about learning from this loss after the game.
"You’ll study the film. It’s disappointing – certainly you have a chance to beat a good team at their place. I still felt like we had a chance there getting the ball there at the very end. I thought we were going to have the ball last and that we were either going to score to win the game or I guess it could have ended in a tie. I hated the way that ended and not getting a chance there to get our hands on the ball. We had two good drives in overtime: [we] got down there twice and I can’t remember if that was a pass interference call on one of them, but it was very disappointing. All we needed was like five yards on that last play in order to give [Matt] Prater a field goal attempt and we couldn't get that. It was a very disappointing finish to the game for sure."
Check out the grades for each Broncos player against the Patriots.
All quotes and injury/practice observations were obtained firsthand. Record information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.
This was the worst performance by Manning all season long. He only passed for 150 yards against the Patriots, and his cold-weather ineffectiveness once again came to the forefront.
SportsCenter tweeted a stat about Manning’s record in cold weather games since 2003.
Crazy Stat of the Day: Tom Brady is 23-5 in games played in freezing temperatures since 2003. Peyton Manning is 1-6.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 25, 2013
With an outdoor Super Bowl and a playoff road that may feature outdoor cold-weather games, Manning needs to improve this mark.
When asked if the weather affected the passing game for the Broncos, Manning had this to say. "When you’re running the ball well that’s a good thing for the offense. When you turn it over and give them two short fields, that's disappointing – that’s not good execution. That’s kind of the way that worked out."
Manning did comment on how games like this in the cold weather could possibly help out in the future. "It’s always a possibility these last months of the season and then you’re potentially in the postseason, so I think the more you can be in it the better off you can be."
Knowshon Moreno: A+
Moreno was a superstar for the Broncos on Sunday night. He was the heart and soul of the Broncos ground game, and he ran for a career-high 224 yards. Moreno was running strong between the tackles, and he gashed the Patriots defense for several big carries.
He ended up on crutches and in a walking boot after the game with an ankle injury. There is no word on the severity right now.
With the problems they have behind Moreno, the team could be in trouble if Moreno has to miss any time.
Montee Ball: D
The rookie had another fumble this week. This is now his third on the season, giving him more this year than he had (two) during his four-year college career at Wisconsin.
The team cannot trust him as the backup behind Moreno, even though he's been running better in recent weeks.
We'll see if the Broncos make a move at the running back position, or re-activate Ronnie Hillman after these fumbling problems continue for Ball.
C.J. Anderson: D
With Ball's fumbling problems, the team then turned to Anderson to complement Moreno in the backfield. Anderson finished the game with three carries for 16 yards.
He fumbled an exchange with Peyton Manning but was able to recover the ball. It was enough for the team to bench him and go back to a banged up Moreno.
Undrafted free agents aren't afforded the same opportunities that second-round picks are. Anderson may not get many shots to prove himself again after this fumble.
Talib was able to get physical with Thomas and disrupt the timing of the passing game. Teams are playing more press on the outside against the Broncos. Thomas needs to play better against such coverage if he's going to play up to his enormous potential.
Wes Welker: C-
His biggest gaffe of the game came in overtime. Welker was in as a punt returner and failed to fair catch a punt late in overtime. He waived off his teammates too late, and cornerback Tony Carter accidentally ran into the ball.
That play gave the Patriots an easy field goal and the win over the Broncos.
Eric Decker: D
Andre Caldwell: N/A
Caldwell failed to make it into the box score against the Patriots. He did play special teams and drew a penalty for running out of bounds on punt coverage in the second quarter.
Jacob Tamme: A
Tamme did a fantastic job filling in for Julius Thomas on Sunday night. He showed off great chemistry with Peyton Manning and led the team in receiving against the Patriots. Tamme even had a one-handed catch for a first down.
He finished the game with five catches for 47 yards and one touchdown. If Thomas continues to miss time, then it looks like Tamme will be the player Manning turns to first.
Green is used mostly as a blocker, and he did a good job of that Sunday night. He was only targeted twice as a receiver and came down with one catch for three yards.
Joel Dreessen: N/A
Dreessen didn't make any impact for the Broncos. He was targeted with one pass but did not come down with the catch.
Chris Clark: B-
Clark had a decent game against the Patriots. He did have trouble slowing down Chandler Jones at times, and Clark allowed one sack on the night.
He also drew a holding penalty in the fourth quarter, but in doing so he prevented Peyton Manning from getting crushed.
Zane Beadles: A
Beadles was pushing opponents around on Sunday night. The interior of the offensive line did a great job blasting open holes for Knowshon Moreno and the ground game.
Manny Ramirez: A
Ramirez, like Beadles, had a great night blocking. He did a good job of dominating at the point of attack. Moreno gained 145 yards rushing before contact. The offensive line did an amazing job.
Louis Vasquez: A
The right side of the offensive line was able to collapse the Patriots defense. Vasquez manhandled his opponent regularly and helped spring Moreno on a few big runs. Moreno had 208 yards between the tackles, and the offensive line did a superb job.
Orlando Franklin: A
Franklin did not allow a sack against the Patriots. Manning was only hit three times against the Patriots, and Franklin was able to handle his man with ease. Franklin continues to be a road grader as a run blocker.
Robert Ayers: C-
Ayers didn't make much of an impact against the Patriots. He finished with only one tackle on the night.
Derek Wolfe: D
Like Ayers, Wolfe failed to make a difference on Sunday night. He didn't make it into the box score.
Malik Jackson: C
Jackson was the best defensive end this night. He had one tackle on the night, but it was a great play where he collapsed his man into running back Shane Vereen.
Kevin Vickerson: B
In addition to his one sack, Vickerson also had two quarterback hits on Brady.
Terrance Knighton: B+
Knighton was strong against the run on Sunday night. He was hustling down plays that went away from him all game long. Knighton even chased down Shane Vereen on a first-quarter carry.
Mitch Unrein: C
Unrein did his usual job of playing solid football. He only had one tackle but was constantly around the football as a part-time player.
Sylvester Williams: C-
Williams didn't do much against the Patriots. He did have one tackle and one unnecessary roughness penalty in the first half.
Von Miller: A+Miller was fantastic against the Patriots, especially early in the game. He was able to scoop and score on a 60-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
The Patriots had a tough time stopping Miller from getting to Brady. He was matched up against left tackle Nate Solder on Sunday night. This reminded me of when I saw the two compete during the week of practice for the 2011 Senior Bowl.
Miller finished the game with eight tackles (six solo) and three quarterback hits. He's been a much better run defender this year. Miller was outstanding in that area of his game on Sunday night.
Shaun Phillips: B-
Phillips did not get to Brady on Sunday night. He did help create edge pressure from the outside. The veteran linebacker finished the game with three tackles (two solo). He also forced a fumble that Brady recovered.
Wesley Woodyard: C+
Woodyard had a career-high 15 tackles against the Patriots. He gets an average grade because of his struggles in coverage.
The Patriots were able to beat Woodyard with guys like Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski. He was late on several plays, and Woodyard struggled to find his man in open space.
Woodyard's day was helped out by a forced fumble early in the game. His big hit on Stevan Ridley caused the ball to pop out.
Danny Trevathan: C
Like Woodyard, we saw Trevathan out of position on a few plays. He struggled mightily in coverage against the Patriots. At times Trevathan seemed confused on the field. He was burned by Vereen a few times.
Trevathan also missed LeGarrette Blount on a carry between the tackles. His grade is helped out by a recovered fumble after a Duke Ihenacho hit on LeGarrette Blount. Trevathan also caused a Julian Edelman fumble on a punt return in the first half.
Steven Johnson: C
Johnson made a big hit on special teams in the first quarter. That was his best play of the night. He did finish with two tackles against the Patriots.
Chris Harris: D
Harris struggled mightily in the second half against wide receiver Julian Edelman. After a relatively quiet first half, Edelman exploded in the third quarter. He finished the game with nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns against Harris. Harris had four tackles on this rough night.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: C
Rodgers-Cromartie was injured right before halftime as he dove for an interception. He was ruled out for the rest of the game with a shoulder injury. Before the injury he did a good job locking down his man on the outside.
Quentin Jammer: C-
Jammer came in for an injured Rodgers-Cromartie. Like Harris, Jammer struggled covering Edelman in the second half.
Kayvon Webster: C+
Webster did a better job than I expected against the Patriots. He was relatively sound in coverage on Sunday night.
His best plays came as a wrap-up tackler. Webster had trouble with letting guys get away earlier this season. It's clear that he's been working on becoming a better tackler in recent weeks.
Tony Carter: C
Some are blaming Carter for the play that cost the Broncos the game. Late in overtime Carter accidentally had a punt hit his leg when Wes Welker was waving teammates to get away from the ball. New England recovered and kicked an easy field goal to win.
It's an unfortunate ending for Carter as he played a decent game up to that point.
After Trindon Holliday's muffed punt, Carter leaped over players on the ground to make a touchdown-saving tackle on Marquice Cole.
Duke Ihenacho: C+
Ihenacho was his usual self on Sunday night. He played enforcer for the Broncos defense and dealt out a few big hits, including one on LeGarrette Blount that forced a fumble. When asked to do so, Ihenacho did a decent job covering tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Mike Adams: CAdams got the start filling in for an injured Rahim Moore. With Moore on the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list, we're likely to see Adams in the starting lineup the rest of the regular season.
He had eight tackles (five solo) against the Patriots.
David Bruton: C+
Bruton's biggest impact came on special teams. He was in position as a defender and finished the game with three tackles.
Trindon Holliday: D
Holliday is becoming more of a liability for the Broncos. He muffed a late second-quarter punt against the Patriots. New England didn't score on the lone play after the fumble. However, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was injured on that play.
The team needs Holliday to at least hang onto the rock or else he will see his opportunities limited as a return man.
Matt Prater: A
Prater was perfect against the Patriots. He was 100 percent on four extra point kicks He also knocked in his lone field-goal attempt, a 27-yard kick in the first quarter.
Britton Colquitt: A
Colquitt punted the ball eight times for 325 yards against the Patriots. He had a long kick of 49 yards in the cold weather. Colquitt was able to get four punts inside the Patriots 20-yard line.