The New England Patriots built off of their 27-9 lead at halftime over the Denver Broncos, but they didn’t need to do too much more to win the game. The Patriots offense led a 7-play, 75 yard touchdown drive, 16-play, 94 yard touchdown drive, with a nice score by James White...
...and that was it. Patriots safety Patrick Chung intercepted Brock Osweiler and returned it to the Broncos 32-yard line, already inside field goal range. Other than a bizarre deep shot to Brandin Cooks, the Patriots appeared to be happy to run down the clock, getting to the 25-yard line and turning the ball over on downs.
In other words, the Patriots could have put up more points. They simply didn’t.
The New England offense was extremely balanced on the day, with Rob Gronkowski gaining 74 yards on 4 catches, Brandin Cooks gaining 74 yards on 6 catches, Rex Burkhead gaining 63 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and 3 catches, and Dion Lewis gaining 55 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Martellus Bennett added 38 yards on 3 receptions in his first game back in New England, while Danny Amendola notched 4 catches for 36 yards, James White added 18 yards and a touchdown on 5 touches, Phillip Dorsett and James Develin both picked up 16 yards on 2 catches, and Dwayne Allen grabbed his first catch of the year for an 11-yard touchdown.
Tom Brady finished the day 25 of 34 (73.5%) for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns, with no interceptions for a passer rating of 125.4. Brian Hoyer was 3 of 3 for 37 yards in clean-up duty.
On the defensive side, Malcolm Butler had some struggles defending Emmanuel Sanders, who grabbed 6 catches for 137 yards, while Stephon Gilmore did a good job limiting Demaryius Thomas to 5 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. No other Broncos receiver made any noise as the New England secondary had a strong day.
The Patriots run defense wasn’t great, with C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles combining for 92 yards on 18 carries (5.11 yards per carry), but New England built up enough of a lead where the Broncos had to throw the football.
But the Patriots special teams were simply sublime. They forced a muffed punt on the opening drive, Rex Burkhead blocked another punt, and Dion Lewis returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Stephen Gostkowski connected on all seven of his kicks and the Broncos started their average drive at the 22.4 yard line.
New England moved on to 7-2 as they remain in line with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the conference and inched closer to clinching the AFC East title.