Final grades and analysis are below.
New England - 16
Denver - 26
|Position Unit||1st Half Grade||Final Grade|
Game Analysis for the New England Patriots
Pass Offense: Like the first half, the Pats moved the ball well on their first second-half drive, but could not finish with points. That left New England down three possessions by the end of the third quarter, effectively sealing their fate. A couple of late touchdown drives padded Tom Brady’s numbers, but New England was most notable for its disappointing situational execution today.
Run Offense: Shane Vereen had a few big runs on draw plays when Denver backed off, but with the Pats trailing, the run game was never a big factor. Vereen was also unable to convert a key two-point conversion late that would have created a one-possession game. Credit Terrance Knighton and the rest of the Denver front seven with an absolutely dominating performance.
Run Defense: The running lanes for the Broncos backs opened up as the Pats wore down, and Denver finished with 103 rushing yards. New England tightened up a bit in the fourth quarter when the Broncos tried to run the clock out, but the main damage came through the air.
Pass Defense: As Robin Williams would say, “It’s not your fault.” The Patriots were simply outmanned without Aqib Talib, and Denver’s opening touchdown drive that ate up half of the third quarter was soul-crushing. Obviously the Pats could have put more pressure on Denver, especially through the pass rush, but this was a clinic by the Broncos offense.
Special Teams: There's not much to speak of here. Punts and field goals were out of the question, and kick returns are never a big factor at Mile High Stadium. Overall, special teams did not have a major impact in the game’s result.
Coaching: Many have credited Bill Belichick for extracting maximum results out of a ragtag bunch, but the personnel shortages finally caught up to the Patriots. New England faced massive mismatches across the board, and while they did well to keep things interesting for a while, there was not much they could do against a clicking Broncos team.
First-Half Analysis for the New England Patriots
Pass Offense: Brady has had bouts of success, but the Patriots have been unable to finish drives. Brady got the Pats moving through the air after a slow start, but untimely gaffes in Denver territory have cost the team points. Much like the defense, the Patriots are competing well offensively, but need a better finish in the second half.
Run Offense: It’s been a total 180 from last week’s dominating rushing performance, as the Patriots have been held to a meager 2.0 yards per carry. New England is in a dangerously one-dimensional state right now, but facing a deficit, it might be hard to rely on LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley going forward.
Run Defense: Apart from Knowshon Moreno's 28-yard run, the Broncos have largely been stymied on the ground. Like last week, the Patriots have done a solid job of containing the halfback draws in their nickel package. It's been a fairly solid performance overall, with just a couple of lapses.
Pass Defense: The Pats held Denver throughout the first quarter, coming up with a red-zone stop late in the first, but they have cracked since Talib’s injury. Alfonzo Dennard really struggled with Demaryius Thomas on the Broncos’ final scoring drive. New England is not winning the key third-down situations, as Denver has converted on five of their eight third downs. The Pats must get off the field more consistently if they are to come back.
Special Teams: Ryan Allen has not shown any ill effects from his shoulder injury, with a 49-yard average on three punts in the half. Stephen Gostkowski also squeaked home a 47-yard field goal for New England's only points of the half.
Coaching: Belichick and Matt Patricia will have an extremely tough challenge ahead of them if Talib cannot return. Without Talib, it’s hard to imagine how the Patriots are going to stop the Broncos offense. Offensively, facing a 10-point deficit, the Patriots do not have much room for error in terms of squandering scoring opportunities.