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Patriots vs. Broncos: Fan Notes from the Game

Monday is a tricky day of the week. On one hand, the weekend is over, the work week has just started, and there are a full five days of waking up early, trudging to our jobs, and slaving away at our desks before we get to have fun again. Sure, we may all try to fool ourselves that our lives are still interesting with the occasional trivia night or a pickup game of basketball with some other high school has-beens every other Wednesday, but for most of us, it's the weekend or bust, and Monday means a return to the monotony.

On the other hand, at least when you're a New England Patriots fan, Mondays are pretty sweet. Monday is usually that wonderful day of the week when you spend the bulk of your time avoiding responsibility by re-watching football highlights, reading analysis articles, and trolling the opposing team's fan blogs and read their woeful laments with an obnoxious sense of smug self-satisfaction. Sure, there is the occasional gloomy Monday following a loss spattered in there throughout the season, days where you basically just sit in your office and stare out the window, making every conscious effort to avoid any and all sports press. But as Pats fans, we've only had three of those since January of this year - most of the time, we get to wake up feelin' fine. That's a pretty good ratio.

And to me, this Monday feels especially sweet. Not only are the Patriots AFC East Champions yet again, but they secured their crown in a convincing win over a smoking hot team on the road in a stadium where they historically don't win. Not only that, but the Pats did their part to take some of the steam out of Tebow Madness, which I'm hoping will mean less articles, analysis, conversations, videos, blog posts, paintings, songs, and poems about Tim Tebow and what he has done this year. And as someone who has opted not to jump on the Tebow bandwagon, that means more focus on the things that I want to hear about instead. After all, what are the holidays for if not for thinking only about yourself?

But wait, there's more! This Monday also saw the New York Jets get absolutely embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants drop a game to the Washington Redskins, setting up an absolute desperation game as the two meet on Christmas Eve. What that means is that there is a very real possibility that I will get to kick off my Christmas with the Patriots securing a first-round bye and the Jets getting eliminated from the playoffs all on the same day.

And if that isn't the definition of tidings of comfort and joy, I don't know what is. Game notes after the jump.

  • The start of this game looked exactly like the 2009 playoff game against the Ravens. Denver came out running at will and just marched down the field for an easy score. New England looked sloppy and off-kilter. This isn't the first time the Patriots have gotten rocked early and then had to settle down.
  • Matthew Slater needs to go back to special teams. He takes horrible angles and tackles like you'd expect a wide receiver to tackle. I refuse to accept that he's the best option available to the Patriots.
  • I finally found a positive to watching this Patriots defense these past few weeks - Watching Tim Tebow carve up them up didn't faze me in the slightest. Pretty much just par for the course. This must be what it feels like to be French Canadian.
  • Uh, Sergio? You do know the rules of the NFL, right? Where were you going on that botched extra point?
  • Phil Simms mentioned a great block by Chad Ochocinco on that Aaron Hernandez run. It looked to me more like he had no idea what was going on and happened to be standing in the way of two Denver defenders. Either way - good work.
  • OCHO! You did it, buddy! Someone is going to have a good Sunday night. I'm willing to overlook the fact that Kris Humphries could have fit 5 and a half marriages into the time between this and your last touchdown as long as you keep producing.
  • Is there some correlation between thin air and horrendous tackling? I mean the Patriots used to be able to tackle, right?
  • Could Sergio Brown have played the Lance Ball touchdown run any worse? He didn't even take a good angle on the direction he erroneously thought Ball was going.
  • I guess forcing throws to a double covered Rob Gronkowski on the seam route that either get picked off or fall blissfully incomplete is just the price we're going to have to pay for having a tight end like that on our roster. It doesn't look like Brady has any intention of stopping that throw, even when he shouldn't be making it.
  • How long did it take Brandon Lloyd to assimilate to St. Louis's offense? 2 weeks? Come on, Ocho. The only time you've gotten any looks all year has been when you were wide open.
  • What do you think it's like for Tommy B to know that almost no amount of scoring is ever going to be enough? That must be absolutely maddening.
  • How many yards per play did Denver average on the 1st quarter? 75?
  • Don't feel bad about that pass, Demaryius Thomas. That's how my throws look, too.
  • And Tebow's, for that matter.
  • I wonder why Denver even bothered to throw at all in the 1st quarter yesterday. 167 yards of rushing in 1 quarter? Are you kidding me?
  • Oh good. We just lost Andre Carter God knows how long. It's a relief, I say. It was getting hard to keep track of all of these impact pass rushers on our defensive line.
  • Tim Tebow's a pretty tough kid. Hope he learns how to play quarterback before his career is cut tragically short.
  • Despite some throws that literally give me chills, Tom Brady is not as accurate this season as he has been in the past. Part of it may be on receiver miscommunication, but a fair share of it is on him.
  • Great example of Tommy B's accuracy taking a slight step back this year - 1st and 10 at the Denver 44 following an Aaron Hernandez catch and run. Pats line up in an I Formation with Hernandez as the lone TE, Ocho and Welker split right, and Gronk filling in as the fullback. Welker was the intended target off the playaction, but coverage forced Brady to dump it off to Hernandez as his check down. What should have been a 5 or 6 yard play became a 2 yard play because Hernandez had to jump for it. That's a short pass that should be an easy completion, but it sailed high and Herndo had to work to reel it in.
  • BOOM! Dane Fletcher. He's going to prove vital down the stretch, I have a feeling.
  • When was the last time Stevan Ridley ran poorly when given enough opportunities?
  • It's refreshing to see a game that forces Tommy B to look elsewhere because Gronk is seeing double coverage all day. Might have been the reminder he needed to get his "whoever's open" mentality back.
  • Somebody please help me out, because I have to be missing something: at one point, there was a split screen of Tebow and Tommy B throwing the ball during pregame warm-ups. Simms used that split screen to break down how similar their two styles were. Did that really happen? Was Simms really comparing Tebow's full body dry heave to Brady's technically perfect mechanics? I missed something there, right?
  • See that Tommy B spike, Gronk? That's how it's done.
  • It resulted in an incomplete pass, but Aaron Hernandez has redefined my perception of what it means to lay out for a ball.
  • I think I've figured out why our punt coverage unit gets so many turnovers - I'm pretty sure I heard several players yelling out "Noonan! Noonan! Muffmuffmuffmuff NOONAN!" all the way down the field (to those whose lives are incomplete because they haven't seen it, that was a Caddyshack reference).
  • I want to call out those of you on the Game Thread who were labeling this game as an L after the 1st quarter - you know who you are - but I was kind of doing the same thing. You figured we'd all have learned by now not to let a big play or ten get us down.
  • I know it was sweat - but it looked like John Fox was crying after an illegal hands to the face penalty gave New England a new set of downs on a 3rd and 24.
  • You know what I didn't realize I've been desperately missing all season? Gaining a big chunk of yards on a run play. Way to get after it, Ridley.
  • How many of you thought that an 18 point 4th quarter lead was enough?
  • Kyle Love's gut doesn't make any sense from a gravitational standpoint.
  • I didn't hear Devin McCourty's name until the 4th quarter - and it was only because Sergio Brown saw a pretty bird flying over the field and completely abandoned McCourty on the sideline. That 30 yard completion to Thomas wasn't McCourty's fault.
  • But does this stuff happen to Tebow in the 4th quarter? There is zero explanation for it.
  • Shaun Ellis got pushed back like a rag doll on that Tim Tebow rush TD. Really thought he'd be a more solid contributor this year.
  • Phil Simms' justification for why Tebow is so inaccurate: he's making extra sure that he's not going to throw an interception. At this point I'm not sure whether Simms has a job because he's a former quarterback or if the NFL is an active participant in employing the mentally disabled.
  • This game gave me a glimpse into the other side of the league; I imagine that this Tim Tebow love fest must be what it's like to be any other team in the league playing against Tom Brady. Tommy B gets a lot of praise, even when he doesn't deserve it at times, and that has to be really annoying for a non-fan. Well, I now know how all of you feel.
  • It must be embarrassing for a DB to get juked out of your skivvies by a tight end. Aaron Hernandez needs his own And1 Mixtape.
  • What a great time to be a Broncos fan. There aren't many teams that are having the kind of season where you don't even think of leaving early down 18 with 4 minutes to play.
  • Did I see James Ihedigbo bite on a pump fake when Tebow was already about 30 yards into his run? Are you kidding me, dude? He must be one of those guys that you can nail with the "there's something on your shirt" immediately followed by "your shoe's untied" and then "hey, look at that" for the unheard of trifecta of exploiting gullible idiocy.
  • I wonder if the fresher legs and change of pace you gain from switching out running backs all the time is more significant than allowing a back to get into a rhythm by keeping him in. I'd love to see New England give Ridley workhorse duty over the next few weeks, let him build some momentum.
  • You gotta love the end zone replay of the Danny Woodhead touchdown. All you see is a bunch of big dudes for about 4 seconds and then all of a sudden the little guy has the score. It's almost like Logan Mankins was hiding him under his jersey.
  • Julian Edelman! You tacklin' fool.
  • How did McGahee gain 9 yards per carry and drag 6 Patriot defenders with him every time for almost the entire game? I think I saw more than one 16 yard run with Wilfork on his back, Kyle Love wrapped around his right leg, and Rob Ninkovitch trying to pull guard on him. Credit to McGahee, but a giant "what the hell, bro?" to the front seven as well.
  • Against any other team, Rob Ninkovich would have had 4 sacks yesterday. He just couldn't bring Tebow down, which I think speaks much more to Tebow's athletic ability and strength than it does Nink's inability to finish plays.
  • Is it me, or was New England's pass rush stronger after Carter left the game? Doesn't make much sense to me.
  • "Give all the credit to this offensive line. They've really held it together, and Tom Brady has only been sacked 1 time." Tommy B gets absolutely lit up by Elvis Dumervil on the next play. Thanks, Phil.
  • What a sweet sack that was, though. I haven't seen a hit that knocked a player off his feet in a long time. The best part was that Tommy B got up like it was no big thing right afterwards. Definitely one of those situations where you walk back to the bench all tough and then collapse into a quivering heap as soon as you're sure nobody is looking.
  • Mark Sanchez just dropped to 4th best in the NFL at avoiding the sack. My list now goes Vick, Roethlisberger, Tebow, then Sanchez.
  • Rookie mistake by Kyle Arrington trying to jump that Demaryius Thomas pass. Play the receiver first.
  • It was really, really nice to see Tebow take a 29 yard sack late in the 4th quarter. It made me feel a little unwholesome, but that's OK.
  • If Tim Tebow is on one knee, dejected, hair a mess, absolutely sucking wind from taking a huge sack on his way to a blowout loss at home, does that still count as Tebowing?

It certainly didn't start well, but if you look at the big picture, this was a great win. The loss of Andre Carter is absolutely devastating, and I don't know what happened to the tackling yesterday, but it was still a solid victory. The New England Patriots are good. They are good enough to make it to the Superbowl if they play their game and force some turnovers. The AFC is a heavily flawed division, and the Patriots' woes are no worse than those of the Steelers, Ravens, or Texans. Plus, yesterday reminded us all that anything can happen to any team on any given week, so who knows what will be going on this time next month. What I do know, though, is that the Pats are once again in the postseason and have as good a shot as anyone to go deep. Maybe we'll get lucky and Carter will be back in time for the playoffs. But if not, it's business as usual. A first round bye is definitely attainable, which means that New England may not have to go on the road again until February.

Happy Monday, everyone.