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Patriots vs. Broncos: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 43-21 victory over the Denver Broncos.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Victory Monday? Sweet.

Victory Monday heading into a bye week? Super sweet.

Victory Monday heading into a bye week where you look like the best team in the NFL? Sweetarific.

Victory Monday heading into a bye week where you look like the best team in the NFL and build a ton of great momentum for a tough upcoming slate of games? Sweetacular.

Victory Monday heading into a bye week where you look like the best team in the NFL and build a ton of great momentum for a tough upcoming slate of games in which you also beat the crap out of Peyton Manning, pick him off twice, and leave the talking jerks heads no choice but to shut the hell up about him for a few hours?

Suh-weet.

If only every Brady vs. Manning matchup could be this one-sided, I would be a much more relaxed individual. This game was never in doubt, and while I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about Manning coming back until the last 4th down conversion failed, it sure beats what I had to go through last year.

Let's get to the notes so the rest of you can do exactly what I'll be doing all day: blowing off work to read all possible coverage of this one and watch game highlights on repeat.

  • I don't think I have ever seen Peyton Manning unintentionally draw a delay of game penalty. That was a surefire sign of things to come.
  • I'd love to see an NFL lineman buck the trend for cold weather games and come out in a full snowsuit. Snowpants, scarf, mittens, and pads.
  • I'm slowly getting to the point where I no longer freak out when I see Bill Belichick not wearing his trademark gray hoodie. He seems to prefer the navy blue one now. Maybe he has decided to save the gray one for big games.BB
  • New England forced a three and out on the opening possession then punted. Helluva better start than last year.
  • Was the crowd loud yesterday or were my ears just ringing from being so worked up for this game I had to get a little hydrated before it started to take the edge off?
  • There was a lot to love about this game, but perhaps the best thing I can say is that the offensive line kept the same five guys out there from the opening snap. That kind of consistency is only going to make an already gelling line turn into Voltron down the stretch.
  • The MVP along the line was Ryan Wendell, in my opinion. He had one of his best games as a Patriot yesterday, including a play in which he was able to pick up a Von Miller spin move on 3rd and 10 to give Tommy B time to find Gronk and extend the drive. That play might have saved the season, as Miller would have charged in on an unaware Brady and it could have possibly resulted in a decapitation.
  • Aaaaaand the Christmas commercials have begun. My early favorite: The Samsung commercial with Anthony Anderson and Melissa Joan Hart. In full disclosure, I think it's an awful commercial, but MJH was one of my Top 5 90s crushes, so it brings back some nice memories.
  • Who were the other four, you ask? Well I'm glad you asked. In random order, it's Pamela Anderson, Danielle Fishel, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Tiffani Amber-Theissen. Although if I'm being honest, it's really like my four 90s crushes and my eternal, everlasting goddess.
  • So Aqib Talib goes to Denver, stays healthy, provides run support, and makes tackles? Hmmm....
  • Survivor is still on the air? I have never seen a single episode of that show and I'm probably more proud of it than I should be.
  • Emmanuel Sanders is an absolute animal. I can see why New England tried so hard to sign him. Twice.
  • I also feel like Alfonzo Dennard would have matched up much better on Sanders than undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler did. Something has to be going on with him beyond him simply being a healthy scratch.
  • And while I stand by that comment, I do think that Butler had a solid game overall. He definitely shone (shined? Shinded? Screw it, he Sheened) at moments and had some very nice breakups, but I'd still like to know what's going on with Dennard.
  • Brandon Browner's DPI call that set up 1st and goal on the one looked, to me, like perfect coverage. I thought the only time you can't have hands on hips is when you're a girl dancing with me at a high school dance. Apparently it's also true if you're Browner.
  • I'd make a comment about how that DPI was absolute garbage, but how many times have I bitched about what is and what isn't pass interference over the years? It's clearly never going to go away, so all you can really do is throw up your hands and hope that by the time January comes around you have had the same number of crap calls go your way that went against you.
  • And today, New England definitely got more flags go their way. Solder got away with at least two holds, LaFell drew some questionable PI calls, and you can make a case for a block in the back non-call on Tim Wright that sprung Edelman for the punt return TD. And since this is a scenario where my team is the benefactor of flags, I'm going to use the "sometimes the calls go your way, sometimes they don't" approach. I'm sure Denver is staunchly in the "refs were horrible" camp this morning. We've all been on both sides of the fence.
  • Probably the worst call of the day - and it's in the running for worst call of the whole season - was when Von Miller faked a blitz and got Sebastian Vollmer to jump. Miller was well onside there and I don't think it was even close.
  • He has had better days statistically, but you can make a case for yesterday being Rob Gronkowski's best game as a Patriot. He drew double coverage to free up other receivers, got great chips at the line to disrupt the pass rush, found holes in the zone, and made what may very well be the catch of the year.
  • Seriously - I thought that I had seen the catch of the year when Jimmy Garoppolo hit Brian Tyms for a bobbling TD in a preseason matchup against the Redskins, but Gronk may have the edge here since this game actually mattered. There's also a chance that Rahim Moore picks that off, although it's hard to tell from the angle of the replay. Regardless, what a grab.
  • Don't know if you can get a bigger coverage mismatch than Von Miller one-on-one against Gronkowski. Miller on Gronk is only slightly less ridiculous than me on Gronk. Touchdowns don't come much easier than that.
  • The negative, of course, is that every single tackle on Gronk is directly at his knees. Every single one. I can't really blame the defenders for it, - if you go high you draw a flag and hitting Gronk between the numbers is the NFL equivalent of this - but Gronk sees at least 10 targets a game and if he keeps running with guys diving at his knees...well, that's enough of that.
  • To end on a more uplifting note regarding Rob Gronkowski - the man is an absolute meathead with a elite football IQ and the mind of a child and I couldn't love him more for it.
  • A bit of an up-and-down day for Brandon LaFell, as he had some great catches as well as some key drops. Tommy B overthrew him in the first quarter on a surefire TD, and then he dropped a gimme between the numbers in the 2nd. However, it's a little hard to knock LaFell for for not holding on to that second TD pass; that ball was thrown at precisely 314 miles per hour. That may have been the hardest I've ever seen Brady gun one in there. If only he hadn't lost a step in his old age...
  • That said, Brady absolutely drilled it in there for Edelman as well, and he was able to hang onto it.
  • Nantz on the Broncos receiver: "Andre Caldwell, whose older brother Reche Caldwell was a receiver on the Patriots some years ago." Yeah, I mean technically, yes. But the Alec Shane definition of playing receiver for the Patriots involves the essential ingredient of actually...you know...receiving.
  • It seems that every time the Patriots play Peyton Manning, he throws an interception that makes him look like a rookie. This year's saw Rob Ninkovich fake the edge rush and then drop back into the flat where Manning had completed a pass to Welker on the prior drive. Rather than commit to the outside receiver, Nink cut back in and in front of Demaryius Thomas for the easy grab. Manning didn't see him at all.
  • That interception saw Emmanuel Sanders hurt his ribs when Nink fell on him. Be grateful that Vince Wilfork didn't pick that one off, Emmanuel. Be very, very grateful.
  • I completely lost count of the number of times I saw a random leaf blowing around the field yesterday and thought there was a flag on the play. Damn you, New England foliage!
  • I know that Manning has never played a single season without a first round draft pick pass catcher lined up with him - but has he even played a single snap without one?
  • Every time I make a note yelling at Julian Edelman for trying to take every single punt to the house even when he should 100% call for a fair catch, somebody please remind me of his return against the Broncos in 2014.
  • You can obsess over the Tim Wright possible block in the back all you want, Phil Simms, but even if Wright didn't even touch him it wouldn't have mattered.
  • I sincerely hope whoever's job it was yesterday to ensure that CBS always had plenty of closeups of Peyton's Manning face gets an Emmy nomination. That guy's Manning Face game was on point, and I don't think he missed a single opportunity. Granted, the Patriots helped him out by giving him plenty of opportunities to Manning Face it up, but I need to give credit where credit is due.
  • Dont'a Hightower made a very strong case for why the Patricia should play him close to the line of scrimmage where he can blow up the pocket and force early throws. I thought he was outstanding overall yesterday and seems to have risen to the challenge of filling in for Jerod Mayo as best he can.
  • Thanks for Akeem Ayers, Titans. Enjoy your draft pick. That was an absolutely monster sack. New England only rushed three, but Ayers stunted around Wilfork and crashed right into Manning's thighs.
  • In general, sneaking into the backfield behind Wilfork is a good straegy. It's the reverse of the ol' Danny Woodhead strategy.
  • I will say, though: that sack was a little close to too low. Based on who it was against, I'm surprised that Ayers didn't draw a 75 yard personal foul penalty and Goodell didn't immediately airlift himself onto the field via helicopter with a full SWAT team right after the whistle blew to beat Ayers to a pulp before taking him off to Azkaban.
  • The TD was eventually called back, and I know that Tommy B and Julian Edelman weren't mocking the celebration Peyton Manning planned for himself when he broke the TD record when they tossed it back and forth the way that they did, but I'm going to just go ahead and stick to that anyway.
  • I don't think that you'll see better pocket presence and effective footwork than what we saw from Brady yesterday. Small adjustments and little steps that gave him enough time to progress through his reads. Not many players in this league can take one step forward and in doing so make four guys miss.
  • Is Tommy B collecting TD balls this season, or am I seeing things? Is he building a fort with them? And if so, how much do I need to pay to spend the night in Brady's TD ball fort?
  • So who else was absolutely terrified at the end of this half and couldn't think of anything other than what happened in Foxboro last season? One team up big, scored 20+ unanswered points, all the momentum going into the half two full quarters left to play...it all just seemed to line up.
  • And then Tommy B threw that pick to start the 3rd and my stomach absolutely dropped. And then Denver marched right down the field for the score and my stomach dropped even more. It's like these two teams have a script or something and decided to switch roles this year.
  • To make things even more interesting,Brady was suddenly less accurate, Denver was suddenly getting pressure, receivers were suddenly dropping passes...I just got a feeling that we were in for a wild one.
  • And honestly, we very well might have been had Wes Welker not done his job as Patriots double agent to perfection and put the ball up in the air for a fantastic Browner pick and return. Oh sweet sweet Tebow do I love being on the other side of a Wes Welker drop.
  • That said: Wes, this one's for you.
  • New England has to be leading the league in committing back-to-back penalties by a country mile.
  • Sometimes I wish that the NFL was like Tecmo Bowl. That way, all we'd need to do in the draft if pick up a guy whose name was "Coverage LB" and a lot of our problems would be solved.
  • Denver's decision to blitz more often was a good one; the complexion of the offense changed towards the beginning of the second half and Brady had to go to a lot of quick looks before he figured the tempo out.
  • Another nod to the offensive line on that one. After a shaky start to the 3rd quarter, they tightened right back up again. Tommy B was only sacked once on the day, and it was more a coverage sack than anything else.
  • He did take a few too many hits for my liking, though. A few of them looked pretty rough, too. I'd like to find Von Miller's mother and give her a piece of my mind regarding her son keeping his damn hands of my Brady.
  • Danny Amendola seems to have settled nicely into the "I only catch the ball when the Patriots really, really need it" role and that's just fine with me.
  • There is no other QB in the NFL where he can be down 22 in the 4th quarter at Gillette and absolutely no part of me is thinking that this game is over. There's no better testament to Manning's abilities than that.
  • I was very, very close to writing a article in the offseason titled "Pat Chung is Not the Answer" when the Patriots first re-signed him. I thought he was more or less a stopgap player that was basically an admission of the front office mismanaging available free agents in the secondary. I almost wish I had, so I could write an article during this upcoming bye week titled "Alec Shane Was Wrong About Pat Chung." He has been a superb addition to this defense as the physical, close-to-the-line LB/safety hybrid that Adrian Wilson was supposed to be when they brought him in. Was in blanket coverage on both failed 4th down attempts, allowed very little yards after the catch, and made some great, hard, tone-setting hits. He got better as the game went on, too, which is what you want to see.
  • Maybe that should be a new series here at Pats Pulpit - the "Alec Shane Was Wrong About" series. We all know I would never be short on material.
  • Great route, Sanders. 4 yard slant on 4th and 5. Atta boy. Chung on the tackle there.
  • Nate Irving was on my wishlist for the Patriots during the 2011 draft. Exactly the kind of run/pass effective LB that this team has been missing for so long. Always hate to see a guy like that go down, especially when his own teammate takes him out. Hope all is OK, big man.
  • What the hell is Ryan Allen doing punting with 15 seconds still on the playclock? Come on, man.
  • Willie McGinnest and John Kerry were hanging out with Bob Kraft in the booth and absolutely nobody cared about Kerry. That, my friends, is the Patriot Way.
  • Willie was just one former Patriot in the house yesterday, as Mr. Kraft welcomed all members of the team who were in New England for their three Super Bowl wins. And what a group it was: Faulk, Patten Chatham, Pass, Brown, Ted Johnson...just so many amazing names that bring back so many amazing memories.
  • And as he has so many times in the past, Kevin Faulk reminded me of why he is my All-Time favorite Patriot by rocking this sweatshirt. I need one of those and I needed it yesterday.
  • Peyton Manning seems to have foregone the usual knee raise to indicate he's ready for the snap in shotgun in favor of some sort of dropping motion that looks very similar to what I used to do when I was 12 and thought that dropping a pile of fake dog poo right by somebody's feet was the funniest thing in the world. But since it's Manning, let's refer to it as the "postseason win percentage drop."
  • For the record, I still think that fake dog poop is hysterical. But it's no longer the funniest thing in the world. That honor is reserved for when somebody sits on a thumb tack.
  • You know what's nice? Jamie Collins, Akeem Ayers, and Dont'a Hightower made  key plays. Aqib Talib, Von Miller, and Demarcus Ware didn't. Boo-ya.
  • Once again, Brady found four different receivers for scores and spread the ball around. Hitting whoever is open what makes Brady so great.
  • This secondary gets my game ball. Bill Belichick was uncharacteristically aggressive with his blitz packages against Manning, and that's primarily because he is able to play press man on the outside and trust the corners and the safteties to prevent the big play. Denver ran zero pick plays effectively. They didn't run that screen to Demaryius Thomas for 90 yards like they always do. Julius Thomas was rendered mostly ineffective. Many of Manning's yards came in garbage time. This secondary hung with the best receiving corps in the league and they can hang with any offense any coordinator can throw at them.
  • Love the "Brady's Better" chant from the Foxboro crowd as soon as this game was out of reach. This is Tommy B's second largest margin of victory over Manning (22) and is the largest since 2001.
  • New England is going to need to address their running game for sure. Denver has the #1 rush defense in the NFL, but I don't want to use that as an excuse. As it gets colder, the run game is going to be more and more crucial.
  • 7-2, 1st place in the AFC, inside track for home field throughout the playoffs. Yup.
  • I'm always happy when the biggest Peyton Manning highlight of the day is when he sings "chicken parm you taste so good" before taking a big bite for that Nationwide commercial. And in honor of that, here are a few more jingles that Nationwide can use with their new spokesperson, completely free of charge:
  • "I can't win in Foxboro."
  • "Tom Brady's better than me."
  • "Always make that Manning Face."
  • "Patriots kicked Denver's ass."
  • "Cold weather games are no fun."
  • "Belichick's is my daddy."
  • "Brady's wife is smoking hot."
  • Maybe that last one isn't really relevant. But the possibilities there are really endless.
  • Did Manning snub Brady on the handshake? Could you imagine the national outrage if Tommy B had done that? There would be riots in the streets. it would be on every single news outlet in the Western Hemisphere. Brady would be pasted as a pouty, arrogant, sore losing baby who refuses to acknowledge that Manning is simply the better player.But I haven't heard a word about it yet.
  • If you want to head over to Mile High Report and gloat a bit under the guise of "great game, see you in the playoffs," I certainly can't stop you - but just keep in mind how unbelievably annoying that is when other fans do it here after New England takes an L.

What a monster win. The Patriots scored more points in the second quarter than the best offense in the NFL scored in the entire game. Let's all keep this win in perspective, of course - it's only Week 9, and there is still a whole lot of season left - but you can't ask for much more than that heading into a bye. Let's rest up, get healthy, and enjoy a much-deserved week off where nobody has to worry about a bunch of defenders diving pad-first at Gronk's knees. Let's all enjoy it.