The Denver Broncos failed to go into the New England Patriots home and pull of the win, again. The Broncos looked lost and unsure of what to do. The offense failed, the defense failed and the special teams failed. It was one of the worst-executed football games from the Broncos in since 2012. Probably second only to the Super Bowl loss.
It all starts at the top, with the coaches. They had 11 days to prepare for the game against the Patriots. But the team failed to execute. It didn’t look like they had a game-plan built for the Patriots. What it did look like was the coaches told the players to just go out and play, moments before the opening kickoff. It was a mess from start to finish, with few bright spots.
Now, onto the player grades. As always, we will start on offense at the quarterback position. Each player starts with a C. A positive play helps their grade, while a negative play hurts it.
Snaps: 83. Stats: 34/57, for 438 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. 4 passes dropped.
Manning, on paper, played an excellent game. On film, however, that is not the case. Manning is surgical and picks apart the defense, often targeting a player in double or triple coverage. When he makes a mistake doing this, it gets excused, because he usually makes 4/5 of those throws. But no QB should throw into double or triple coverage. Against New England, two of those type of throws were picked off. His decisions are sometimes questionable, and that stayed true in the Broncos recent loss. His grade: D+.
Snaps: 51. Stats: 3 QB hurries allowed. 10 rushes for 16 yards and 1 touchdown, 4 forced missed tackles. 10 targets, with 7 catches for 47 yards, with 1 touchdown and 1 dropped pass.
The Broncos being unable to gain yards on the ground was not Hillman's fault. Up front, the offensive line was unable to open up space for the running back to gain yards. As a receiver, Hillman was great. He did drop a pass that should have been an easy catch. He played a big part in what little offense the Broncos had. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 11. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed. 2 rushes for 6 yards. 1 target, with 1 catch for 6 yards.
The Broncos called on Thompson very little against the Patriots. When they did, it was with little success. Yet again, the running back was let down by poor blocking and execution up front. Even as a blocker, Thompson saw little success. His grade: D-.
Snaps: 19. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed. 3 rushes for 18 yards. 4 targets, with 3 catches for 33 yards, with 1 dropped pass.
Anderson came into the game and saw success as a runner and a receiver, but that came in garbage time. The Patriots had the game in hand and were focused on defending the pass, which allowed Denver to run. Still, Anderson gave the Broncos hope, though it was slim. His grade: B.
Snaps: 75. Stats: 11 targets, with 7 catches for 127 yards, with 1 dropped pass.
Thomas had a great game, but again that is on paper. This time, however, the film backs up what is on paper. Thomas played a good game, though he did drop a pass. He was a mismatch nightmare for the Patriots and they continuously rotated coverage on him, trying to find something that worked. When they found something that worked, they stuck with it until it failed, which caused mismatches again. What hurts Thomas’ grade is his blocking. It was less than good, even for a receiver. His grade: B.
Snaps: 76. Stats: 16 targets, with 10 catches for 151 yards.
For as much of a mismatch Thomas was, Sanders was even worse. His quickness hurt one cornerback from the Patriots, while his speed hurt another. New England just could not find a way to defend him. It didn’t help that Sanders caught passes even when tightly covered. Sanders bailed out Manning on a few passes; passes that would’ve been incomplete, if not intercepted. His grade: B+.
WR Wes Welker
Snaps: 47. Stats: 8 targets, with 3 catches for 31 yards, with 1 dropped pass.
Welker is getting a lot of blame for failing to catch a pass that ended up being intercepted, putting the game out of reach, which isn’t right. Welker played a great game, but that doesn’t show up on paper. On two other passes thrown his way, Welker broke them up. That is a good thing, because otherwise that would have been two more interceptions from Manning. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 10. Stats: None.
Despite seeing 10 offensive snaps, Caldwell had no impact on the game. He failed to get separation as a receiver, keeping him from being an option in the passing game. Then in the run game, he couldn't block. He gets knocked back and beaten by his assignment. That is, if he tries. His grade: D-.
WR Cody Latimer
Snaps: 2. Stats: None.
In Latimer’s 2 snaps, he showed some promise. He had one snap as a blocker, the other running a route. As a blocker, he did a good job. He kept his man in front of him and away from the ball carrier. As a receiver, he got a step on the cover man, but was not targeted. His grade: C+.
Snaps: 81. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed. 2 targets, with 2 catches for 33 yards and 1 touchdown.
Thomas was nonexistent for the majority of the game. Outside of his two catches, Thomas was bad. Part of that is due to how the Patriots defended him. They covered him in a way that has seen him shut down before. Then, when Thomas was kept in to block, they exploited him and his horrendous blocking. Thomas failed time and time again to even block a defensive back. The Patriots did their work in the film room on Thomas and it paid off for them. They showed why Thomas is simply not the best tight end in the NFL. His grade: D-.
TE Jacob Tamme
Snaps: 40. Stats: 5 targets, with 1 catch for 10 yards.
For once, Tamme failed to be Mr. Reliable for Manning. Time and time again, Tamme failed to come down with the catch. However, he was covered tightly each time and would’ve had to make the one handed catch. As a blocker, Tamme stood out as the best blocking tight end for the game, but that is not saying much. Overall, he played a solid game. His grade: C.
LT Ryan Clady
Snaps: 83. Stats: 1 QB sack allowed, 1 QB hurry allowed.
Clady should not have been credited with allowing a sack. The play started off with Clady engaging the defender, who then stunted inside to a wide open A-gap to sack Manning. However, notwithstanding that, Clady played a bad game. He was getting pushed back in the passing game, and could not hold his own in the run game. He was often thrown off by the defender, who then made a play on the running back. His grade: D+.
Snaps: 83. Stats: None.
Franklin played a horrible game. He is lucky the refs seemingly were not paying attention to him, as they missed multiple, blatant holding calls. Besides that, he was getting pushed back in pass protection and struggled dealing with stunt rushes. In the running game, he could not seem to engage a non-moving target. His grade: F.
Snaps: 83. Stats: None.
Ramirez is who should be credited with giving up Clady's sack. Instead of paying attention on the stunt rusher, Ramirez “helped” with a triple team. The Patriots again did their homework and knew exactly how to exploit the weakness of the Broncos offensive line; the center. They blitzed the A-gap with great success. Ramirez looked lost and unsure of what to do. When he did engage a blocker one-on-one, he lost. His grade: F.
Snaps: 83. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed.
Vasquez was the best offensive linemen to play for the Broncos, but that is not saying much. He was just the best of the bad. Vasquez did a great job in pass protection, but struggled in run blocking. He looked slow and unable to execute fast enough. He was beaten through the gaps multiple times. His grade: C-.
RT Paul Cornick
Snaps: 83. Stats: 2 QB hurries allowed.
Cornick had a rough game, but far from the worst. He had streaks of bad play from start to finish, but also had streaks of great play. He did not look better than Vasquez, but was not much worse. His big weakness remains in pass coverage and it is a simple issue, too. He does not kick out fast enough. His grade: D+.
Snaps: 2. Stats: None.
Clark came into the game for two snaps, and both of them were run snaps. He did not do well, but didn’t do bad either. The low snap count is what saves his grade. His grade: C-.
Snaps: 1. Stats: None.
Like with Clark, the low snap count saves Montgomery’s grade. One snap, for a run play, Montgomery did what he was supposed to do with little success. His grade: C.
The Broncos offense played poorly and it shows on film. They looked lost and had no game-plan, whatsoever. On top of that, they failed to execute the plays that were called. Their troubles started up front, in the trenches, with the offensive line. Then it went to the quarterback. Take out the leader and the rest falters. That is exactly what the Patriots did. They took Manning out of the game, despite his stats, and the rest of the offense failed.
Moving forward, the Broncos need to solidify the play on their offensive line. Manning is so vital to this offense, they have to give him time in the passing game. The offensive line also has to be able to open up holes for the running game. They failed to do both. The coaches need to realize this and work to fix it. The coaches also need to look in the mirror and see the troubles they are causing the team, but that is for a different article, at a different time.
Now, it is onto the Oakland Raiders.