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Notes, musings, and observations from yesterday's 31-21 victory over the Denver Broncos
There was a whole lot to like about yesterday's monster win over the Denver Broncos. Once again, the rushing game proved effective, the defense made plays when they needed to, and once again Tommy B hooked up with Wes Welker on some huge third downs to keep the chains moving and establish an offensive presence. Yes, it was still Brady vs. Manning, but there wasn't the same kind of energy, tension, and unpredictability that has come with past games, mainly because the Pats proved that they were just plain the better team out there. Manning was great, but the Patriots as a team were better.
And if you happened to notice that the home crowd was cheering a little louder than usual yesterday, you can thank yours truly for leading my fellow degenerates up in the nosebleed seats in what I feel was one of the better fan noise performances in the history of Gillette Stadium. I'm not sure if the camera ever cut to a large, foul-mouthed, Bruschi-jersey clad moron waving his arms around like a wildman during any of the game breaks, but if they did, well then I may have some explaining to do at work today. Regardless, there's no way my voice can handle any phone calls today, and I couldn't be happier about it.
Let's get to the Fan Notes.
- Good old Tracy White. To his credit, he wasn't terrible yesterday.
- Another quality game from Tavon Wilson. He has great instincts and hits hard.
- Peyton Manning rushing with the ball looks like a man absolutely desperate for a bathroom who has to carefully tread that fine line between hurrying as fast as possible and not stepping too heavily lest he lose control of his bowels.
- While I have to admit that it's somewhat effective, I'm not a huge fan of Sterling Moore's "let the receiver catch the ball and try to knock it out of his hand" approach to defense.
- Double Whammy for Demaryius Thomas early on; gives up a huge fumble, then gets ruined by Devin McCourty on a monster block.
- Brandon Spikes is absolute force in the running game. He can telegraph his gap assignment all day, and he'll still blow up the backfield and make the play.
- New England used a 3-3-5 nickel package that utilized both Ras-I Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard as a sort of defensive back/linebacker hybrid. It wasn't overly effective, as it was the personnel on the field for a few 3rd down conversions, but to my knowledge I haven't seen that package yet this season, so it may come into play at a later date.
- I don't know what he did, but I'm officially declaring the corner turned on Rob Ninkovich. He has looked like a totally different player since about halftime of last week's Bills game.
- There were two absolute idiots in the stands behind me yesterday that wouldn't stop fawning over Wes Welker on every reception he made. I couldn't agree with them more; I call them idiots because they were drinking Michelob Ultra. Who the hell drinks Michelob Ultra at a football game?
- Once again the no-huddle running attack was highly effective. Denver's defense had no idea what was going on for a lot of the game.
- New England ran a quick in slant to Welker at will yesterday. That route right there is the reason you can't blitz Tommy B.
- I heard Von Miller's name TWICE today. Once in the first quarter when he dropped Bolden in the backfield for a loss, and the other came on a Tommy B sack early in the third that was more coverage-based than anything else. That's a good day for the offensive line.
- I'd like to hope that Denver didn't even bother trying to establish the run because they realized that you just can't run on this team as opposed to the quarterback under center. They aren't there yet, but you can really see things starting to come together defensively.
- Devin McCourty really needs to learn to turn his head around. Almost all of his PI calls are because he never even bothers to look for the football. That's just cornerbacking 101 and I don't know why he doesn't do it - or why the coaching staff isn't all over him to fix it.
- I think that Ice Cube and Coors Light need to sit down and have a nice, long talk about what's causing this feud. If I had to guess, I'd say that Coors Light really, really hates his afro, but that's just me.
- You watch Wes Welker play and you wonder why the hell he ever isn't out on the field.
- Every time the camera cut to Denver defensive coordinator Jack del Rio, it looked like he had just finished crying. Not that I blame him. Tommy B brings tears to my eyes too.
- How refreshing is it to be able to consistently gain 3 yards on the ground on 3rd and 2 when everyone in the stadium knows the Patriots are running it?
- New England hasn't had a decent kick return since Week 1.
- Denver's receivers were open more often than I would have liked; a lot of their incompletions were Manning having accuracy issues on the longer passes.
- I think one of my favorite things about the 2012 Patriots is that I never know who is going to surprise me with a big day. Whether it's Ridley, Lloyd, Bolden, or even Fells, it seems that some role player or other steps it up from week to week. This week, it was Woodhead. Little guy had a helluva game in the plays he was given.
- Great example: late 2nd quarter, 3rd and 14 at New England's 11 following the Daniel Fells drop. Pats line up in Shotgun 4 WR formation with Gronk, Welker and Lloyd out to the left and Branch alone on the right. Brady looked like he was trying to go to Gronk up the seam, but Denver had him bracketed. Brady has to scramble and Woodhead breaks off his route to come back as an outlet. 25 yard reception.
- Another great example: 3rd and 17 following a Ryan Wendell holding penalty. A vanilla off tackle play gets some great blocking and Woodhead makes a fantastic cut to pick up an extra 12 yards and convert.
- Has Brandon Lloyd tallied more than 5 yards after the catch combined all season? Is there any particular reason he catches passes and then immediately goes to the ground?
- I've said it before and I'll say it again: Deion Branch is one of the best, if not the best, blocking wide receivers in the NFL.
- Absolutely love Brandon Bolden's running style: hard-nosed, explosive, and decisive. I don't like his tendency to opt for contact when going out of bounds is the smarter play, as that's what leads to fumbles and injury, but you can't knock the heart.
- Daniel Fells: blocking, yes. Catching, not so much.
- I heard Tommy B, on more than one occasion, yell, "hey, Gronk! Watch the end!" To which I'm pretty sure he responded "daaaaa...Okay, boss!"
- Is Stevan Ridley one of the best backs in the league? Averaging 5 yards a carry, three 100 yard days in 5 weeks, consistent for tough yards...other than yesterday's fumble, he's had a phenomenal season so far.
- He really, really needs to work on his end zone dances, though. I don't how what the hell he was doing yesterday.
- Ridley still has nothing on the rushing machine that is one Tom Brady, though. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
- Brady also now has the edge on spikes as well. Step it up, Gronk.
- There are few things I like seeing more than Vince Wilfork holding a football. Not only does it usually mean the Patriots just forced a turnover, but the man is so massive it looks like he's holding a Cadbury Cream Egg. And let's be honest: he probably wishes that he was.
- Once again, the reason big Vince was able to come up with it was a phenomenal strip sack by Ninkovich - followed by an accordion hit from Chandler Jones. How's the neck, Manning?
- This secondary is still highly susceptible to big plays. Like I said last week, when your defense gives up a lot of big plays, the other team is always in it.
- Plays like that big 3rd down conversion are exactly why the Patriots brought Deion Branch back. I love that he can go relatively forgotten for an entire game, and then come up with a big play at the right time.
- How many of you started to get really, really worried when Tommy B took back-to-back sacks in the 4th quarter to give Peyton Manning the ball back? There was a very big sense of "here we go again."
- And honestly, if McGahee hadn't dropped that gimme 4th down conversion, that may have been a very different game from there on out. That drop took an extra four and a half minutes off the clock.
- I actually like the 4th and 5 decision; that was a long way to go for a field goal, a punt probably would have only netted 15 or so yards, and a 1st down there would have pretty much sealed it. It obviously didn't work, but I like the reasoning and faith in an offense that was playing very, very well.
- Welcome to the NFL, Alfonzo Dennard. You were on a Hall of Fame quarterback's best receiver on back to back throws and you came out the winner both times.
- How does Manning do it? How does he just march down the field like nothing whenever he absolutely has to score? When it isn't against the Patriots, it's an absolute joy to watch.
- Great pulls on toss plays by Marcus Cannon.
- McGahee is in my conversation for Patriots MVP of the game yesterday. That guy came up huge when we needed him.
- And guess who was in on the fumble? Ninkovich and Spikes.
- How great was Brandon Lloyd running onto the field right away to help Kyle Arrington up? Total non-event, but it just made me feel fuzzy.
- Being able to come out in victory formation right out of the 2 minute warning is the best part of any football game.
- Little bit of an icy handshake between Brady and Manning at the end there. Someone didn't like how this game came out.
- A few things that I noticed as a fan in the stands yesterday:
- I don't know how they do it, but somehow the cameramen covering the game know the exact location of every hot girl in the entire stadium and are able to cut to them at a moment's notice.
- Rob Gronkowski's strengths: run blocking, route running, ball catching, and porn star dating. Rob Gronkowski's weaknesses: tying his shoes, and reading off of a teleprompter during Jumbotron gamebreak announcements. Eesh.