The New England Patriots were without a couple key pieces on their offense, but they have shown time and time again that the scheme helps make the players. This was a cause for worry for the Denver Broncos and a defensive unit that has fallen off a bit over the last few weeks. However, they rose to the challenge keeping the No. 2 scoring offense to seven points less than their average.
At first, it looked as they the Broncos defense was out-matched and out-gunned, both by the players on the field and the coaching staff on the sideline. Eventually some adjustments were made, but it didn't fully correct the problem. This led to one touchdown by the Patriots.
Fortunately the defense stepped up in a big way multiple times, especially when it was really needed. With that said, let us jump into the player grades.
Derek Wolfe, DE
Snaps: 59. Stats: 1 sack, 7 hurries, 1 stop, 8 tackles.
The game I saw from Wolfe was exceptional. As a pass rusher, it looked as if that is what he is known for, but his run defense was just as good. He was constantly pushing the pocket and making Tom Brady uncomfortable, or taking on blockers to give the other defenders a better chance.
He notched a sack where he just plowed through two blockers, one of which was clearly holding Wolfe, and just strong-armed Brady to the ground. In the running game, New England couldn’t run at Wolfe. He was bringing his blocker to a standstill and impeded the path of the ball carriers.
Snaps: 8. Stats: N/A.
It was early in the game when Williams left with an injury. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to be able to hand out an accurate grade.
Malik Jackson, DE
Snaps: 57. Stats: 1 QB hit, 3 hurries, 1 tackle.
It was a solid game from Jackson, but he wasn't the force on the defensive line as expected. He got solid push, but wasn’t able to generate it into consistent pressure. In the run game, he was good, but not great and made a few mental errors. Most of his errors came in positioning and technique.
Von Miller, OLB
Snaps: 59. Stats: 1 sack, 3 QB hits, 7 hurries, 4 tackles.
He may have notched only one sack, but Miller was excellent getting after the quarterback. I mean, he managed 11 total pressures, including the sack, during the game. That may not seem like it, but it is a ridiculous number. Where he did falter was in his run defense, but that was still stronger than it has been the last couple weeks. My final note is, even though Miller is an outside linebacker and covering is part of the job, he should never be in coverage.
Brandon Marshall, ILB
Snaps: 57. Stats: 3 tackles.
Early on in the game Marshall struggled handling TE Rob Gronkowski, which should come as no surprise. Eventually, an adjustment was made and Marshall ended up playing a good game all-around. His run defense was stellar, and so was his coverage, when not assigned to Gronkowski.
Danny Trevathan, ILB
Snaps: 46. Stats: 1 hurry, 4 tackles.
Danny Trevathan cannot be matched up with quicker, agile, faster running backs. That showed multiple times against the Patriots, and it was one adjustment that they never made. He played excellently against the run, but his coverage was a point of weakness for the defense.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB
Snaps: 46. Stats: 1 QB hit, 4 tackles.
Even though Barrett only notched one pressure, he still had a solid game pass rushing. He was generating solid push on a semi-consistent basis. Where he really shined was in his run defense, which was close to perfect. His ability to set the edge, then disengage after the ball carrier makes a cut is a work of art.
Aqib Talib, CB
Snaps: 66. Stats: 4 tackles.
It wasn’t a great game from Talib, but not a bad one, either. He just looked average in everything he did. He made a couple of stupid penalties, which he shouldn’t have made. As the game went on, he got better, but it still just an average game.
T.J. Ward, SS
Snaps: 10. Stats: 1 missed tackle, 1 tackle.
Ward got hurt not far into the game. He missed a tackle, on a play someone else missed a tackle, and helped allow a score. He also notched a tackle on the play he got hurt. While I could hand out a grade, I won’t be for Ward. There just wasn’t enough to go off of.
Darian Stewart, FS
Snaps: 66. Stats: 1 missed tackle, 4 tackles.
It was a rough game from Stewart, especially in coverage. He got matched up with Gronkowski for most of the game, which is a tough matchup for anyone to single cover. He missed a tackle on the tight end, which ended up going for a touchdown. As for his run defense, he came up to help and looked good in doing so.
Chris Harris, Jr., CB
Snaps: 66. Stats: 2 tackles.
This has been a good, but not great season for Harris. Even though he hasn’t allowed a touchdown, he has allowed a lot of catches for a good amount of yards. It takes more than not allowing touchdowns to be called a shutdown corner, and Harris just hasn’t been one this season. On the other hand, he has been one of the best click-and-close corners in the NFL, which is crucial to short passes and helping out in the run game.
That wraps up those who started the game. Now time to jump into the players who subbed into the game.
Vance Walker, DL
Snaps: 27. Stats: 1 sack, 1 tackle.
Walker ended up seeing more action after the injury to Williams. He had one good play, which was his sack. The rest of it was average at best.
Antonio Smith, DE
Snaps: 12. Stats: N/A.
The pass rushing defensive end didn’t notch a pressure and didn’t show up against the run. While he didn’t hit the box score, it doesn’t mean his game was bad. However, his game was just average.
Shane Ray, OLB
Snaps: 21. Stats: 4 QB hits, 2 hurries, 2 tackles.
The rookie played a really good game. He was strong getting after the quarterback, and if not for some last second throws, he would have had a sack or two. On two of his hits, he was taking the quarterback to the ground and the QB just got the ball away. Ray also played a strong, but not great, game in defending the run.
Bradley Roby, CB
Snaps: 29. Stats: 2 tackles.
It was a quiet game from Roby — outside of a play or two. He wasn’t targeted much in the passing game. His run defense was good, but just not needed.
David Bruton, S
Snaps: 58. Stats: 3 tackles.
With Ward getting hurt, Bruton stepped in and played a really good game. The defense didn’t look like they took a big step back, and they just kept clicking and playing at a high level. His coverage was good and so was his run defense. Bruton showed exactly why he has a pretty big role on the defense as the third safety.
Omar Bolden, S
Snaps: 27. Stats: 1 missed tackle, 1 tackle.
Besides a missed tackle, which let the Patriots score on a long touchdown, Bolden played a good game defensively. He was quick breaking to the ball, and looked really good in his coverage. In a surprising note, he looked very willing to get his hands dirty when defending the run.
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