The New England Patriots absolutely demolished the Denver Broncos, winning with a final score of 41-16. The Patriots were ahead by so much that Brian Hoyer received top in mop up duty and we all know how much Tom Brady hates to come off the field. Here are our instant thoughts from the game.
Offensive line, especially LaAdrian Waddle, were amazing
The Denver Broncos had one sack on the day when safety Justin Simmons blitzed and running back James White was unable to pick it up. Other than that, the Broncos recorded three other quarterback hits on the day and that’s it. The Denver freaking Broncos. For all the problems the Patriots had on the line in 2017, they had their best outing of the year against Denver.
Von Miller finished the day with 1 quarterback hit and 1 tackle and was effectively erased by back-up tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who stepped up with Marcus Cannon sidelined with an ankle injury. Waddle went above and beyond and was simply fantastic.
Running backs shared the backfield evenly
Dion Lewis had 14 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown. Rex Burkhead had 10 carries for 36 yards and 3 receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown. James White had 2 carries for 7 yards and 3 catches for 11 yards and a touchdown. Even Brandon Bolden chipped in 2 carries for 1 yard.
Mike Gillislee was a healthy scratch and he hasn’t been the efficient runner the Patriots had hoped they were signing in the offseason. I still think he would be better if they gave him a few targets out of the backfield to force defenses to respect the pass when he plays.
But if the Patriots are able to have such an effective backfield with the trio of Lewis, Burkhead, and White, it’s hard to argue with this rotation moving forward.
Patriots receivers were exceptionally balanced
Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks both had 74 yards on the day from 4 and 6 catches, respectively. Martellus Bennett added 3 catches for 38 yards and Danny Amendola had 4 for 36 as the depth options. Rex Burkhead had 3 catches for 27 yards and a touchdown, James Develin had 2 for 16, and James White had 3 for 11 and a touchdown out of the backfield.
And then Phillip Dorsett had 2 catches for 16 yards and Dwayne Allen had 1 catch for 11 yards and a touchdown as the last options in the offense.
When Chris Hogan returns, the Patriots offense should ascend to new heights and levels of efficiency. There are just so many players that can step up when their number is called.
Stephon Gilmore almost erased Demaryius Thomas
Gilmore had a great day in his first game back from an ankle injury and a concussion. Gilmore was last seen limiting Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans to 49 yards on 5 catches in week 5 and picked up right where he left off, holding Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to 44 yards and a touchdown on 5 catches. Gilmore had an outstanding night and chipped in a pass defended.
Malcolm Butler had a more difficult night, although he defended a pass of his own. He was tasked with covering Emmanuel Sanders who racked up 137 yards on 6 catches. It wasn’t like Butler was in bad position on all of those plays, either; he had really good coverage and Sanders just made a great play. Hopefully Butler can rebound next week against the Oakland Raiders.
Special teams was incredible
Forcing and recovering a muffed punt. Blocking another punt. Returning a kickoff for a touchdown. Connecting on all seven kick attempts (two field goals, five extra points). Forcing the Broncos to start the average drive off a kickoff at the 22.4-yard line with exceptional coverage.
Special teams weren’t hidden yardage tonight as the Patriots special teamers were worth more than the 16 points the Broncos scored all day. They could have won this game on their own.
The red zone problems might be solved
The Patriots struggled in the red zone for the first half of the season and looked to have the same problems to start the evening, scoring a touchdown on their first drive, but stalling at the Broncos 7- and 10-yard lines in consecutive series.
But then the Patriots scored on their next three drives, all inside the red zone, thanks to Dwayne Allen, Dion Lewis, and James White. It’s funny what happens when the offense isn’t forced to Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan on every trip to the red zone. Hopefully this is a sign of red zone production to come for the rest of the year, especially when Hogan does return.