New England Patriots Week 13 Stock Report
It finally happened. The right set of circumstances came together and the New England Patriots lost a game.
It wasn't just the officiating that did it. It wasn't just their multiple injuries. It wasn't just a stingy Denver Broncos defense and a hostile environment at Sports Authority Field. It was the combination of all those factors that did the Patriots in.
But just like the Patriots refused to get too high on their wins, they should avoid getting too low on their loss.
There are some positives to be taken from this game, with a couple of big-time performances from unexpected players. The Patriots could expect more from those players, but they'll definitely have to get more from others who failed to chip in on the Patriots' path to defeat.
Here's a look at some of the ups and downs from the game.
Stock Down: Rob Gronkowski
Well, duh, right?
The Patriots had the No. 1 seed in both years, and although they maintain the inside track to the pole position in the playoffs in 2015, they'll have a much steeper hill to climb without Gronkowski.
The Patriots will try to replace Gronkowski while he is out with what the Patriots are calling a bone bruise/knee sprain, but right now, Scott Chandler is the best backup option on the roster. Though Chandler is no Gronkowski, he can do some of the same things.
With that said, this offense is much better with Gronkowski.
Stock Up: Logan Ryan
Few Patriots defenders played as well as cornerback Logan Ryan did on Sunday night.
Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler targeted him nine times but notched just two completions for 40 yards and a touchdown. Ryan held his own with two pass breakups, and despite the narrative, only one of the incomplete passes against Ryan was a drop.
The evolution of Ryan has been a sight to behold. He was thrust into a larger-than-expected role as a rookie in 2013 but took it in stride by notching five interceptions, the most among rookies that year.
For a minute, it looked like his role would expand in his second year, but the Patriots had other ideas with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. After they both left, Ryan was once again put into the spotlight.
Boy, has he delivered. This season, he's allowed 36 receptions on 66 targets (54.5 percent) for 459 yards, two touchdowns, four interceptions and a 61.4 passer rating with seven pass breakups.
Stock Down: Malcolm Butler
Malcolm Butler's season has been up and down. Against the Broncos, Butler was much more of the latter than the former.
Osweiler targeted Butler six times in coverage and registered five completions for 89 yards. Butler did notch a pass breakup, but he gave up catches of 17 and 39 yards, and he had a misssed tackle as well.
There's no getting around the fact that Butler is the best cornerback on the Patriots roster, and every cornerback has bad days every now and then no matter how good they are. With that said, the Patriots need Butler's very best week in and week out if they want to continue leaving him on an island against a team's best receiver.
Stock Up: Ryan Allen
The Patriots offense is running out of weapons, but a new weapon is emerging on special teams. Punter Ryan Allen had 10 punts for 450 yards, with five of them pinning the Broncos inside their own 20-yard line.
This game was a constant battle of field position, and Allen's consistent punts helped the Patriots win that battle—although they ultimately lost the war.
The Patriots have been a juggernaut on offense and have not called on Allen much this year. However, he's been consistent in his smaller role. Despite having just 46 punts (12th-least out of 35 punters in the NFL), Allen has put 23 of them inside the opponent's 20-yard line (third-most in NFL).
Punters are people, too, and the Patriots have one of the better ones in the NFL.
Stock Down: Chris Harper
It was one play, but it was the play that completely altered the course of the game.
Patriots wide receiver Chris Harper was doing fine in the first three quarters, but in the fourth, he let his opportunity—and a big step toward to a Patriots win—slip through his fingers when he muffed a punt that the Broncos recovered.
Harper has bounced back and forth between the roster and the practice squad this season, and he had an opportunity as a punt returner with both Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman out of action.
Make no mistake: Harper was no better than the third option at punt returner. He didn't even get the opportunity to return punts until both Edelman and Amendola were out of action.
The Patriots released Harper on Monday due in no small part to his miscue at the most inopportune time.
Advanced statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.