PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- Tim Tebow grabbed most of the headlines leading up to this game, but Tom Brady was once again a showstopper Sunday, completing 23 of 34 passes
for 320 yards and two touchdowns. The Broncos did all they could to
take Rob Gronkowski out of the game, so Brady went to his other tight
end, Aaron Hernandez, who finished with 129 yards and a touchdown,
proving once again his favorite receiver is the open receiver. Even
Chad Ochocinco joined in on the fun with his first touchdown catch of
the season and first with New England.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The
Patriots had most of their weapons intact Sunday and they wisely spread
the wealth. Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis
combined for 122 yards. Woodhead was a fixture in the shotgun set,
rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown, while Green-Ellis and Ridley
helped the Patriots chew time off the clock down the stretch.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- There were
other problems, but the secondary once again looked pedestrian for the
majority of the game against a quarterback not known for his accuracy,
arm strength or ability to stretch the field. Tim Tebow completed only
half of his passes, but most of them went to Demaryius Thomas, who
caught seven passes for 116 yards. The Patriots had no answer for the
6-3 wideout; had Denver chosen to throw more -- or perhaps earlier in
the game -- the numbers might've been more eye-popping.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Until Willis McGahee
left the game with an injury, the Patriots looked awful against the
run. Between Tebow, McGahee and Lance Ball, the Broncos rushed for 252
yards, most of them in the first half. The game changed when McGahee
went down, though some credit should be given to the Patriots for
wisely switching to a 3-4 front defensively.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- A foolish
play by Quan Cosby trying to field a punt deep in his own territory and
a heads-up recovery on the subsequent fumble by Dane Fletcher gave the
Patriots a last-second field goal at the end of the first half. The
rest was elementary, two field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.
COACHING: A -- Though it might
seem like it was a no-brainer, the Patriots knew at some point they'd
have to switch up the coverage defensively in order to stop the
bleeding. With the run defense getting gashed, the Patriots switched to
a 3-4 front, which was their base defense for years until their veteran
linebackers began retiring one by one. The move paid dividends; the
Patriots finished strong despite what the final numbers indicated.
BRONCOS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus --
Demaryius Thomas must be loving the Broncos' air attack right about
now. He was targeted 13 times Sunday while posting his second 100-yard
performance in three weeks. But the rest of Denver's skill-position
players combined were thrown to just 10 times. Tim Tebow is doing a
better job at executing pocket throws and hitting some intermediate
routes, but he has to disperse the ball better overall.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus --
Things couldn't have started any better for Denver, which in the first
quarter put up the most yards in a single quarter (167) in any NFL game
since 2000. But Willis McGahee got hurt, three turnovers hurt even
more, and a big deficit made the offense one-dimensional. Denver
finished with 252 rushing yards on 31 attempts. It marked the first
time ever that a Broncos team ended with 250-plus on the ground and
lost. Denver had won the previous 16 teams it reached that mark on the
PASS DEFENSE: D-minus -- Tom
Brady worked the ball around with surgical precision, hitting nine
different targets on his 23 completions. Seven of the nine had at least
one reception of 12 yards or more. Brady's done the same numerous times
on the way to his eventual enshrinement in Canton, but the
disconcerting part for the Broncos was the numerous breakdowns in
coverage leaving receivers wide open and a spate of missed tackles that
led to numerous yards after the catch.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The
Patriots have quick-strike ability with the passing game, but they
sustained drives with the run Sunday, carrying the ball 20 times for 83
yards in the second half while playing keep-away. New England had three
rushing TDs overall in piling up 141 rushing yards, its fourth-highest
total this season. Even Brady got into the act with his first rushing
score this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- A muffed punt
before halftime led directly to three points. A bad snap punctuated
Denver's first TD drive. Another botched catch on a kickoff started a
drive at the 8. The special teams have shown marked improvement this
season, but other than Britton Colquitt's punting, the Broncos had an
COACHING: C -- The Broncos saw their
six-game winning streak end at the hands of a team perhaps destined for
the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. No crime there. But once again, one
of the leading passers in the NFL shredded the secondary, which is
disconcerting. And once New England adjusted to Denver's running game,
Tebow and the passing game couldn't expose a weak secondary.
Seed Should They Get?
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Redefined In Denver
Report Cards: Patriots - Broncos
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