Patriots are the hottest team in football. With all due respect to the 7-1 Arizona Cardinals, the New England Patriots look like the hottest tam in football right now. This was a statement win. The Patriots were home underdogs at Gillette Stadium, where they haven't lost since 2012. The Broncos were pretty much unanimously considered the best team in football, and the Patriots completely dominated them. This was also perhaps the coaching staff's best game of the year. We're back to preseason expectations of championship or bust. It's hard to believe that just over a month ago, most thought the Patriots were dead in the water.
Tom Brady was the superior quarterback today. Without a doubt, Brady was the best quarterback today, tossing another four touchdowns. He was precise throughout the game, moved well in the pocket, and actually would have had a fifth touchdown if not for a drop by Brandon LaFell. Peyton Manning had his moments, as expected. However, he had a bad first half interception (grabbed by Rob Ninkovich and returned for a touchdown) and missed several key 4th down opportunities. Both had chances, but Brady took advantage of them. It's always about Brady vs. Manning when the two play against each other, and for the 11th time in 16 games, Brady was on the winning side.
Patrick Chung's redemption is real. It would not have been fair to label Patrick Chung a bust after he departed for the Eagles last offseason, but he certainly hadn't lived up to the expectations that came with being the Patriots' first selection in the 2009 draft. His return to the team was a surprise to many this offseason, and he's been solid in run defense all year. Tonight, he took on a larger role in pass coverage, and played simply excellent football. He got the better of Jacob Tamme on several Manning throws, and was one of the best defenders on the field throughout the night. It was an unlikely storyline heading into the season, but Chung's total redemption is a very real thing.
Complete game for Patriots defense. Peyton Manning somehow had more than 400 yards passing today, but don't let that confuse you, this was a complete defensive effort from the Patriots. The Broncos came out and tried to run the ball down the throat of the Patriots' defense, and the Patriots swallowed it up. They also mixed up their coverages and blitzes. Matt Patricia called man, zone, off-man. He ran stunts on the defensive line, blitzed his linebackers up the middle, had them drop in short zone, etc. The Patriots were unpredictable tonight on defense, and made the big plays when they had to. Rob Ninkovich had a great game, completing abusing right tackle Paul Cornick and coming up with the aforementioned interception.
Rob Gronkowski is Regronkulous and Edelman is back. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in football again. He was prolific tonight. His one handed catch in the red zone in the fourth quarter may have been the best of his career. Julian Edelman was also able to get going tonight after a couple of tough weeks that included four drops. Tonight, he had nine receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. He also had a big second quarter punt return touchdown to put the Patriots up 20-7.