Patriots vs. Broncos: Fan Notes from the Game

Jared Wickerham

Notes, musings, and observation from the New England Patriots' thrilling 34-31 victory over the Denver Broncos in overtime.

If I had to take a nationwide survey of the general American working world, and that survey question was "during what week of the year would you say you get the absolute least amount of work done?", I think that the short week before Thanksgiving would be far and away the winner. For most of us - at least those of us without heartless, corporate monsters for bosses - this week consists of two and a half days of doing little besides watching the minutes tick by as we get ready for almost five full days of eating, drinking, sleeping, eating, seeing family, eating, watching football, and eating. There may be a few opportunities to get some real, actual work done sprinkled in there somewhere, but for the most part we all pretty much mailed it in for the month of November last Friday.

Or maybe that's just me.

Regardless, I can now say with some certainty that any small chance I had of even being remotely productive went right out the window with last night's epic, heart-stopping, sweat-inducing, profanity-laced overtime victory over the Denver Broncos. We all know how horribly it started out, but we also know how wonderfully it ended, and looking at the big picture and relishing in this morning's victory, I couldn't have asked for a better result. My initial hope for this game was that the Patriots win it 65-3 and Peyton Manning throws seven interceptions and Manning Faces so hard that the frigid Foxboro air freezes his features that way and he's forced to live out the rest of his days looking like Squidward, but that's only because "Patriots go down big only to come storming back and win in overtime in one of the most epic games in NFL history all while Manning puts up a stinker" never even crossed my mind. Of all the Brady vs. Manning showdowns, this one ranks right up there on the all-time list.

I'm delirious, I'm exhausted, and I'm a little hung over...but it's all worth it. Time for the notes.

  • Has there ever been as much fanfare over two players who have never even been on the field at the same time? I'm so, so glad I now know what Don Shula, Bill Parcells, and Joe Gibbs think about the Manning/Brady debate. I don't know how I functioned without that knowledge.
  • Wes Welker and Manny Ramirez are two names I never thought I would root against. I know it's a different Manny Ramirez, but still.
  • I don't know if even NFL minimum salary would have gotten me on the field last night in short sleeves. I would, however, have loved to go to the game; a lot of people don't like watching football in cold weather, but I think it's awesome. Instead I was forced to watch on my couch in my bathrobe and slippers with a six-pack of beer that cost me only slightly more than one beer at Gillette does and the heat cranked way up. It was tough, but I managed to soldier through.
  • A brand of truck - Dodge Ram, I believe, but I'm not sure - is currently running an ad campaign where kids have baseball fields and clubhouses and tree forts built for them and the whole process is shown in reverse. The sad thing is that I don't know how far off from reality those ads actually are as we raise yet another generation of whiny, entitled brats. I had a treehouse once; it was a piece of plywood wedged between a few branches in a pine tree in my back yard. I loved it.
  • Thanks for the visual of the truck full of a bunch of turkeys on their way to the chopping block, NBC. Just what I needed last night.
  • Is it me, or did it look like Gronk was trying not to crack up during the offensive introductions? Either that, or he was trying to remember who he was and where he went to school.
  • Neither Denver nor New England seemed to put too much emphasis on blitzing or changing the pass rush up too much at the line. The difference, however, was that Denver was able to create all kind of pressure early and New England couldn't get anything done on defense.
  • As nice as Stevan Ridley's stiffarm is, he slows down a lot when he throws it. I don't know whether it's a fundamentals issue or if he's just worried about fumbling.
  • I literally wrote that last note about two seconds before Ridley gave up a fumble that resulted in a touchdown. God dammit.
  • That now marks two huge Ridley fumbles in two consecutive games that ended up costing the Patriots big time. I really, really hope that this is a correctable problem, but at this point I'm starting to wonder. The notion that he is an absolute fumbling machine is completely erroneous, but the truth is that ball security has been an issue with him as far back as his college career. He has been a fumble risk pretty much from day one, and if he can't get it together at this point, you have to wonder if he ever will.
  • Plays like the Ridley fumble, against a team like Denver, are enough to lose you a football game. Turning the ball over again on both of the next two drives are enough to lose me my will to live.
  • In Bill Belichick fashion news; I will now be wearing a winter hat over a hoodie every single time it's cold out. I thought I had the whole "I don't give a crap" look down, but Belichick just took it to a whole new level.
  • Last time the Patriots started a game like this, the Baltimore Ravens walked away from Gillette a very happy group of guys.
  • It's actually really eerie how similar the start of this game was to the 2009 Wild Card playoff with the Ravens. Huge play for a touchdown to start the game. A strip sack of Brady on the next drive that resulted in a touchdown. #27 running the ball at will and the opposing QB not needing to make any plays. New England unable to find an offensive rhythm. The biggest offensive play of the half coming on a muffed punt. Wes Welker nowhere in sight. A very humbling, very hydration-inducing performance at home against a team you really, really hate losing to. Lots of bad memories from those first 30 minutes.
  • Oh good - Canon is hurt too. Who needs linemen?
  • Oh good - Blount fumbled again. Who needs to hold onto the ball?
  • Oh good. Denver is in the end zone. Who needs to win games?
  • Hey guys...see how Moreno holds onto the ball when he runs? Not bad, eh? Think maybe we can try that?
  • Tons of credit to the Denver offensive gameplan. It was freezing, Manning is useless in the cold, and every Patriot that knew how to stop the run was injured, so Denver just ran it up the gut and milked the clock. When you score 17 first quarter points without breaking a sweat, it opens up your entire playbook.
  • I saw Vince Wilfork in a gray thermal sweatsuit on the sidelines and thought to myself, "does Snuggie make a Wilfork-sized product? Do they just cut holes in a California King-sized blanket and attach to towels to it?"
  • I find it very amusing that Stella Artois is marketed as a classy beer in America. In pretty much every other part of the world, it is the beer of choice for absolute degenerates. That may explain why I think it's delicious.
  • The good thing about going down by so much so early is that it never really gives you time to truly become miserable and you go from denial to acceptance almost immediately. I went into the half oddly calm about the whole mess.
  • How about those stats that broke down Brady vs. Manning over the years...it was always fairly well known that Manning has historically had better offenses than Brady has, but I had no idea that the numbers were so skewed in Manning's favor.
  • The biggest stat, in my opinion? Nine 1,000 yard rushers for Manning to Brady's four. Having a running threat is such a huge advantage for a quarterback.
  • Is Coors really the banquet beer, Sam Elliot?
  • How bad is it that I was relived just to see a Patriots drive end with a punt?
  • Good lord...is there some kind of contest to see if everyone on the team can fumble the ball?
  • Ah the ol' drop and throw...one of my favorite trick plays.
  • Pretty much everything that could go wrong in the first half of yesterday's game went wrong. Turnovers. Injuries. Dropped passes. Poor throws. Massive third down conversions. Blown assignments. Every possible situation that could cause a fan to scream at the television happened. Games like these are supposed to be decided on one or two plays that don't go your way - not EVERY SINGLE PLAY.
  • Justin Green on Demaryius Thomas? Well OK then.
  • I'd still rather have practice squad signee Green in coverage than first round draft pick Dont'a Hightower out there.
  • Whether it was due to scheme or injury is unknown to me, but both Hightower and Aaron Dobson were phased out of the game in favor of Dane Fletcher and Kenbrell Thompkins, both of whom had huge games. I hope it isn't injury, but what's most disheartening is that of those two, I'm more concerned about Dobson. We're still a ways off from the B-word police coming to take Hightower away, but they are definitely in the neighborhood and asking questions.
  • After he took his third sack of the day, I kind of got the impression that Tommy B didn't really want to be there anymore. Maybe content to run the ball, punt it away, and then wait for the game to be over. I kind of felt the same way, except for the fact that I was at my house and didn't have anywhere to go.
  • Of course, only I give up immediately when something gets hard and Tom Brady is Tom Brady.
  • A Wendy's commercial last night made the attempt to paint some poor guy as a loser for getting more excited to see a bacon cheeseburger than an attractive redhead who showed up at his door. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I think taking the cheeseburger was absolutely the right call.
  • New England's final drive before the half says everything you need to know about how they played up to that point - just punt it and hope it bounces off a Bronco.
  • Who would have thought that one of the biggest plays of the game was a meaningless pass that ended up keeping Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out for the rest of the game?
  • Maybe the first half was all part of Belichick's master plan to lull Denver into a false sense of security.
  • I'd love to blame the weather for how silent the stands were for the start of the second half...but I think it was just a classic case of Pats fans being Pats fans.
  • I mean seriously - when John Roos did his classic, "and that play is good for another Patriots..." I could hear individual fans yelling "First Down!"
  • There were three girls sitting in the end zone holding a "Gronk Me" sign. I'll bet money that the next home game those girls go to, their sign will say "He Gronked Me." All three of them.
  • I'll also bet money on the exact moment Gronk saw that sign: 3rd and 3 following the Montee Ball fumble to set the Pats up at the one. There were some fly honies in the end zone and there was no way that three or four Broncos were going to stop him.
  • HA! Take that, shutout! Julian Edelman gets it done.
  • That opening drive of the second half represented a completely different Patriots team. It was almost something straight out of an old Popeye cartoon where everyone on the team ate a can of spinach and came out gangbusters.
  • I really, really need to watch a game with Ramsey. He and I are pretty much kindred spirits.
  • How great was that Manning face after Gronk's touchdown to bring it within 3? Peyton's forehead is so massive I could read his thoughts all the way from my couch: "How does that Brady guy throw the ball in this weather?"
  • How great was that Manning face after Logan Ryan's interception? Peyton's forehead is so massive I could read his thoughts all the way from my couch: "I wonder if John Elway has the same kind of pull Bill Polian does. Can the Competition Committee make it illegal for me to play in cold weather?"
  • How great was that Manning face after the Broncos went three and out after they lost the lead for the first time all game? Peyton's forehead is so massive I could read his thoughts all the way from my couch: "But that was a screen play to Demaryius Thomas! How can that not work in cold weather?"
  • If The Prudential Company is right and retirement is basically getting paid for doing what you love to do, I have an excellent head start on being lazy and fat.
  • I wonder where the 2nd half of this game will land on the Brady/Belichick legacy when it's all said and done...
  • Good to see Welker still gets the hometown spots.
  • Good to see Welker still gets the hometown drops.
  • Not much Talib could have done against Thomas on that scoring drive; a lot of perfectly thrown passes, and Thomas is just too much of a talent to completely shut down. More important was how well Talib bounced back from a poor showing last week to pretty much dominate one of the best receivers in the game.
  • Pats win the OT toss and take the wind. Textbook definition of a "genius if it works, moronic if it fails" coaching calls. Bill Belichick is a genius.
  • I think I would have had to impose a complete media blackout if Manning had taken his first overtime possession and scored a touchdown with it. As soon as Belichick made that call, you just know that both Borges and Shank turned down the lights, lit some candles, and got ready for some serious "me time." So sorry to disappoint, fellas.
  • Did the NFL decide to just stop calling Pass Interference for the Patriots? Was there a memo that I missed?
  • On the plus side, at least they didn't throw the flag for interference on Thompkins only to have another ref sprint over from 30 yards away to tell him to pick it up and site that it wasn't a catchable ball.
  • After that non-PI call to bring up 3rd down, I got exactly the same feeling I got when Wes Welker dropped a certain catch a few short years ago. Just a pit in my stomach and a feeling of inevitability.
  • And of course, that feeling of inevitability meant a muffed punt that gave the Patriots the ball back.
  • NATE EBNER! NATE EBNER! NATE EBNER!!! NATE EBNER!! THE LEGEND GROWS!
  • I'm actually amazed that the Patriots didn't line up for a field goal right away after getting the ball, the way the running backs were having trouble.
  • I'd like to thank Jack del Rio for making a crucial substitution at halftime, swapping out Peyton Manning for his brother Eli.
  • To my neighbors across the street- no, you weren't dreaming last night. There was a large, doughy man in nothing but his boxers dancing in the middle of the street in 20 degree weather.
  • If I was to compile a Top Ten list of moments from last night's game (and I might; it's not like I'm getting any work done this week), I think I'd rank watching Marshall Faulk try to contain his pure, unadulterated rage over New England winning that game on the NFL Network wrap-up in the top three.
  • Another epic Manning/Brady showdown in the books. And as he has so, so so many times in the past, Brady came out on top. Manning is still the media darling, but that's fine with me. Give me Tommy B any day of the week.
  • In all honesty though, how lucky are we to be so directly connected to what is undoubtedly the greatest quarterback rivalry in NFL history? It's appreciated and enjoyed by all NFL fans, but to have one of the two play for our team is really something special, and I'm so glad to be a part of it.
  • And while I'm being honest, there's absolutely no way I would have written that last note if the Pats had lost.
  • I have been saying this for a very long time, and I'll say it again now: there's just no point in debating between these two quarterbacks until their respective Hall of Fame careers are over. But until then, here are a few questions to the Brady/Manning debate that are a little easier to answer:
  • Who do you think would win in a fight, Brady or Manning?
  • Who do you think can chug a beer faster, Brady or Manning
  • Who is better looking, Brady or Manning?
  • Who has better hair, Brady or Manning?
  • Who has a hotter wife, Brady or Manning?
  • Who probably has a restraining order against me, Brady or Manning?
  • The final question of Bill Belichick's postgame presser was "fans want to know, who was the best linebacker you ever coached out of the city of Indianapolis, Indiana?" Belichick, laughing, replied, "Rosevelt Colvin." I didn't get the joke until later, when I realized that Colvin was the one who asked the question.

On to Houston, who just lost to the Jaguars and are undoubtedly going to consider this game their Super Bowl, so there isn't much time to enjoy this one. But there is some time, and that some time is right now. Time to sit back, relax, and watch highlights for the rest of the day. Happy Victory Monday, everyone!

UPDATE: I just read a great piece on how dejected Manning was after this game, and one quote in particular just tickled me pink. How much would you pay to have been an eyewitness to this??

At 1:17 a.m., Manning finally headed for the team bus. Moreno hobbled through the door a few minutes later, wearing a walking boot on his right foot and flannel pajama pants for the long journey home. They left in the nick of time, just missing a gleeful Rob Gronkowski careening through the corridor in the front seat of a golf cart.

Mooooove it!” the Patriots tight end called out playfully. For the victors, it was full speed ahead.

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