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Patriots vs. Broncos: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 41-16 victory over the Denver Broncos.

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

I’m not a fan of Patriots primetime game. My stance on this is well-documented at this point, so no need to get into it further here. All I know is when Sunday Night rolls around, I just want to relax and decide not to watch whoever is playing because the NFL stinks this year.

But watching the New England Patriots completely dismantle the Denver Broncos isn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday evening, I have to admit.

  • This was one of those games that you just didn’t know what to think about. Sure, the Broncos had lost four straight coming into this one... but it was a game in Denver, a veritable house of horrors for the Patriots. This was also a team without their starting right tackle and one of their primary red zone targets. Denver’s defense had been gashed in the past, but they always seemed to give Tom Brady fits. So while it should havce been a mismatch on paper, last night’s game had all the makings of business as usual between these two teams. Instead, we all got to relax and enjoy a game that was never really in doubt - and one that more or less ended Denver’s season.
  • Of course, New England’s rise as of late did absolutely nothing to hamper the Tomny Dungy “I’m going to go against the grain here and pick against the Patriots” streak. I absolutely loved Rodney Harrison calling him out on the NBC pregame show for ALWAYS picking against the Patriots. His face was priceless.
  • As for the line of the night, it came from Al Michaels, who continues to remind us why he’s the best in the business: “Father Time doesn’t know where Tom Brady lives.” That’s gold.
  • Brady’s night: 25 of 34 for 266 yards and 3 TDs, good enough for a 125.4 passer rating. But the numbers don’t quite tell the whole story. Brady manipulated the Broncos defense like a 34th street diamond salesman on a tourist; his running backs must have put about 3 miles on the odometer running back and forth across the line alone pre-snap. He got them into looks he wanted, ignored the sidelines, and completely shredded the middle of the field via the backs and tight ends, and Denver couldn’t do anything about it.
  • Not that the strategy was some kind of surprise; we all knew that was the plan. The rel question was going to be whether or not the offensive line, without Marcus Canon, would be able to give Tommy B enough time to do what he needed to do. And the answer to that question was a resounding yes. Brady was sacked once, near the goal line, in a play that was more coverage-based than anything else. But other than that no Denver player registered more than a single QB hit. You’d figure that the last guy you’d want going up against Von Miller is a guy whose last name is “Waddle,” but LaAdrian had himself one helluva game.
  • However, I also need to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the underrated splendor of Dwayne Allen as a blocking tight end. He made the most of his 20 snaps last night as a chip blocker and edge setter, allowing for more time in the pocket and enough gaps for the running backs to FINALLY pick up two yards on 3rd and 1.
  • And of course, James Develin continues to be one the best fullbacks in the NFL. I’m glad he went to Brown, as it means there are a lot more brain cells in his head to scramble with all of those massive collisions before he starts to lose his marbles.
  • Thank goodness that Denver muffed punt landed outside the 25. Had the Patriots started inside the red zone there, it likely would have resulted in two yards on three plays and a missed field goal.
  • Instead, the Patriots did what they decided to do all night: motion the running backs out wide, create coverage mismatches, and use their receivers and tight ends to run clearout routes to open up the middle of the field. The result was Rex Burkhead open on an in-cut for a touchdown.
  • On the flip side, Malcolm Butler continued to do one of the things he does best: get smoked by the double move. At this point in his career, it just might be one of those things everyone is just going to have to live with. Like me with the morning after the all-you-can-eat wing buffet at Paddy’s of Park Slope.
  • Obviously, I love Butler’s tenacity - but sometimes I wish he’d just try and tackle and not go for the strip.
  • Garrett Boles looks a lot like Shrek. That is all.
  • One of the agendas for the bye week clearly wasn’t “prevent the big play.” However, the Patriots aren’t giving up points. They’ve held opponents to 17 points or less for five straight games now, starting with the Thursday Night Tampa Bay game. They still aren’t generating many sacks or turnovers, but if you’re keeping your opponent out of the end zone and have Tom Brady as your quarterback, that’s a good recipe for success.
  • Good for light up sweater Raiders guy not caving to pressure and going to his girlfriend’s family’s Christmas dinner rocking his colors. Anybody in a relationship will tell you - you need to establish your team allegiance early and stick with it.
  • That Dion Lewis doesn’t enter concussion protocol every time he gets tackled is nothing short of remarkable.
  • The only way to guarantee that he never enters said protocol, of course, is to ensure that he just runs into the end zone virtually untouched, the way he did on that kickoff return. What a day for special teams. Hell, what a year for special teams. The oft-forgotten unit for the Patriots has been directly responsible for a number of wins this season.
  • I love the Denver fans saying that Walt Coleman is a pro-Patriots ref. Name me one single call he made in New England’s favor! I can’t think of a single one.
  • Tommy B has once again changed up his haircut and is sporting some bangs, it seems. Before last night, the only other man I’ve known to make bangs sexy is this guy.
  • I’ve seen it all. An OPI called on Denver for a pick play.
  • New England, sitting with an 18 point lead in the 3rd quarter, went to a lot of empty shotgun sets with bruising fullback James Develin spending a lot of time in the slot., where Edelman and Amedndola usually sit. Only the Patriots.
  • Has the Bud Light “dilly dilly!” made its way into anyone’s daily life yet? I have yet to hear it anywhere, and I feel like if it was going to catch on, it would have by now.
  • But then again, nobody is really watching any football this year, so maybe nobody has really seen that ad.
  • I know I should comment on Dwayne Allen’s first catch of the season, an 11 yard TD grab just before the half to put a stranglehold on the game - but I’m sure Rich Hill is already working on a 7,000 word piece about how it was the single greatest play in NFL history, so I’ll let him handle this one.
  • I could write an entire article on how great a tackler Devin McCourty is, and it wouldn’t be enough. I just wish I could write that about more Patriots, who continued to allow yards after contact.
  • Overall, Denver got smacked around in every facet of the game. But holy jeez did Emmanuel Sanders own Malcolm Butler last night. 137 yards on six catches, and at least three of those saw Sanders completely juking Butler out of his shorts to make the wide open catch. Throw the white flag, Patricia. Switch up the coverage here.
  • That said, Denver’s TD drive to open up the third quarter, sparked by that 3rd down nutty Demaryius Thomas conversion, was one the best drive of football I’ve seen in 2017. It took up almost half the quarter, took 13 plays, went 75 yards, and was a perfect mix of run and pass. That was just beautiful. Cap tip. Of course, given the score at the time, an eight minute drive is just fine with me.
  • On the ensuing drive, however the Patriots needed only three minutes to go 75 yards for the score. That’s cool too.
  • And then there was the 94 yard drive they put together to make it 41-16 and completely put the game away. If you want to talk about a think of beauty, look no further. Pinned at their own six. 16 plays. A mix of short and intermediate passes. Fantastic special teams awareness to catch Denver with too many men on the field. Creating the James White mismatch to generate the score. Clean up, aisle me.
  • My favorite part of the night? Between play camera cuts to Broncos head coach Vance Joseph.Every time his face showed up on my screen, he looked like he had order number 32 at Hardee’s and the announcer just called order number 31, 33, 34, and 35.
  • It wasn’t until Tommy B threw a pass to nobody as the 4th quarter began did it set in regarding how few times I heard the Denver faithful yell IN-COM-PLETE last night. And that’s just fine with me.
  • What wasn’t IN-COM-PLETE, however, was the Patriots total and utter domination of the Broncos. That, my friends was COM-PLETE. To the point where a clear, audible “Brady” chant started in the stands of Mile High. Not a bad way to cap off the weekend.

The Patriots needed this one more than the record or score indicates; they’re just diving into an absolutely brutal stretch of football, still missing some key pieces, and the Raiders are coming off a bye week and a hard-fought win against the Dolphins. Then it’s three straight divisional games before heading to Pittsburgh to play one of the best teams in the conference in a game that may very well decide who gets homefield advantage in the playoffs. So coming to Denver and imposing your will on a team that has given the Pats fits in the past is a good way to build some confidence heading into the second half.

Mexico City, here we come! Bust out the cervesa.