The Patriots were able to take care of business against the Denver Broncos, routing them 41-16. This game was unlike the last few matchups between the two teams, which were hard fought and much closer than 25 points. The Patriots dominated in all three facets of the game, making this their most complete victory of the season.
Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game
1. The Patriots’ special teams was remarkable
When most people think of the important parts of a football game, the aspect that is usually overlooked is special teams, as it doesn’t always have a huge bearing on the outcome of the game. The opposite was true last night, as the Patriots special teams turned the tide for New England early on in the game. You have to credit the special teams for the Patriots’ early dominance, as a muffed punt gave the Patriots great field position in the opening moments of the game. Dion Lewis further added to the onslaught when he scored on a 103-yard kick return extending the lead to 14-3. Rex Burkhead also blocked a punt in the second quarter, allowing the Patriots to score once again. Denver’s special teams struggled throughout the game, but one key play must have really infuriated Vance Joseph and his staff. In the fourth quarter, the Broncos stopped the Patriots on third down, only to give them a free first down when they lined up with 12 men on the field.
2. Give the Patriots’ offensive line credit
The Patriots’ offensive line had a great performance last night, only giving up 4 QB hits, and one sack. This was a welcoming sight to all Patriots fans, who probably remember the 2015 AFC Championship Game, when TB12 had Von Miller draped all over him. Speaking of Von Miller, #58 managed only one QB hit, as he was handled throughout last night’s game by LaAdrian Waddle, who was filling in for the injured Marcus Cannon. The Patriots need to carry this momentum forward for future games against aggressive defenses such as Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
3. The Patriots’ defense also continues to improve
The Patriots appeared to have a ‘bend but don’t break’ routine in place over the first few Denver drives, as the Patriots only gave up field goals after allowing Denver to move across the field. The Patriots began to clamp down on Brock Osweiler and the Broncos offense in the second half, where they only gave up 7 points. The Patriots’ secondary was aided by the return of Stephon Gilmore, who had his most efficient performance of the season, as he held Demaryius Thomas to 5 catches for 44 yards (although Thomas did score a touchdown in the second half against Gilmore). The one sore spot for the Patriots was Emmanuel Sanders who racked up 114 yards in the first half, with Malcolm Butler primarily in coverage against him. Fortunately for the Patriots, they were able to limit Sanders to 23 yards in the second half. Patrick Chung also recorded an interception in the fourth quarter, which essentially wrapped up the game.
4. The Patriots’ plethora of running backs and tight ends continue to impress
Although the Patriots may lack depth in certain aspects of their team, 2 key positions which are stockpiled with talent include their tight ends and their running backs. The Patriots enjoyed key contributions at running back, with Dion Lewis, James White, and Rex Burkhead all having prominent roles (Burkhead and White each had 1 TD, while Lewis scored twice). It will be hard for opposing defenses to scheme against the Patriots’ offense, as the team has the depth to afford constantly revolving their starting lineup. The Patriots’ tight ends also had great performances. Rob Gronkowski continued his domination of the Broncos, recording 4 catches for 74 yards, and Dwayne Allen FINALLY caught a pass, recording a touchdown in the waning moments of the second quarter. Martellus Bennett was efficient in his return to New England, recording 3 catches for 38 yards, with his first catch going for 27 yards.
Here’s a fun fact: The Patriots won in Denver in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1964-65 and 1965-66 seasons.