Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard hasn't been having a perfect season. He started the year off playing well when the defense still had all of its pieces, but his production dropped and dropped once the players started dropping and dropping.
And then Dennard injured himself. His knee. Or his arm. Or his everything. Dennard was in bad shape. After the Patriots bye week, he played 109 of the season's final 495 snaps. He missed three games entirely. The last bastion of health on the Patriots defense crumbled and Dennard went down with the ship, never to resurface again.
It started with a simple knee surgery to repair a meniscus injury in Week 11. The Patriots foolishly rushed him back in Week 12 against the Broncos, even though his recovery was supposed to take at least twice as long, and he reinjured it early into the game. He missed Week 13. He was dinged up, but willing to play and he wasn't playing anywhere near to 100%.
So the Patriots used him sparingly to close out the season. Six snaps in week 16 against Baltimore. Out against Buffalo. Dennard was able to rest for roughly four weeks in order to get back into football shape for the playoffs and he seemingly took advantage of the time.
Per NESN's Doug Kyed, Dennard was targeted an astounding 10 times as the Patriots defense forced Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to deviate from his number one target. If not for the beautiful pass to LaVon Brazill for a touchdown, with Dennard in almost perfect coverage, we'd be talking about Dennard amongst the likes of Jamie Collins and LeGarrette Blount.
Two receptions. Two interceptions. Two more passes defended. On ten targets? Please and thank you.
Dennard was a man possessed and playing like he's healthy for the first time all season. He certainly brought his A game for the first time since the bye week.
This is the player the Patriots will need to match up against Broncos receiver Eric Decker for the AFC Championship game. The injured Dennard who played against the Broncos for the first half of the game is gone. Dennard must use his physicality must throw off the offense's timing and he must take advantage of the inevitably errant throws.
Dennard was one of the key players in the Patriots victory over the Colts. Let's see him continue that success as we move forward.