The New England Patriots defense was running the show against the Denver Broncos until one injury ruined the game for everyone.
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower left the game with a knee injury right before the half and that changed the entire complexion of the game.
Broncos rushing stats before Hightower injury: 15 carries, 43 yards. Broncos after Hightower injury: 17 carries, 136 yards, 3 TD.— Kevin Duffy (@KevinRDuffy) November 30, 2015
Just think of that. The Patriots defense was holding the Broncos offense to 2.87 yards per carry with Hightower. That dropped to 8.00 yards per carry and all three touchdowns after the injury.
While the linebacker position was already stretched thin with the loss of Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeny was having a great game next to Hightower early on. However, once the defense shifted to include Freeny and Jerod Mayo, the flood gates were open and the Broncos had plenty of success running around the slushy field, sealing the edges, and turning up the field.
Hopefully the injury to Hightower is minor and hopefully Collins will return next week. The Patriots defense is certainly not the same when they are weak in the middle.