Switch in defense helps in win over Broncos
The New England Patriots didn't show us anything
we didn't already know, but they deserve credit Sunday for showing
resilience on the road in a hostile environment against the Broncos in
a game that appeared to be getting out of hand.
Coach Bill Belichick and his staff, particularly
safeties coach Matt Patricia, decided early to switch from a 4-3 to
3-4, which helped slow Denver's running game en route to a 41-23
victory in Denver.
The win gave New England its third consecutive
division title and put the team on the fast track toward clinching at
least a No. 2 seed in the AFC. The Steelers entered Monday night
needing to win at San Francisco to stay atop the conference (they own
the tiebreaker based on their win over New England earlier this season).
"We're 11-3. We're in a good place," quarterback
Tom Brady said. "We've got to take care of business against Miami this
week. As soon as the game's finished, it's on to the next one. That's
the way we approached it all year, and that's the way it's got to be."
Though they won't admit it, the Patriots had to be
fired up due to all the excessive pre-game hype surrounding Broncos
quarterback Tim Tebow, so much so that Vince Wilfork mocked Tebow's
signature sideline genuflection, which has become known as "Tebowing."
"Yeah, I Tebowed," Wilfork said. "I'm pretty sure
I won't be the last one (to Tebow), and I wasn't the first one."
For now, though, the Patriots are the first team
to slow the Tebow express; Denver had won six consecutive games
entering Sunday, but the Patriots held him to 11-of-22 passing and
forced him to fumble twice; the turnovers helped turn the game on its
Up until that point, the Patriots had no answer
for the Broncos' running game and were running out of solutions. The
"bend but don't break" Patriots showed up again Sunday and helped New
England escape with a gut-check win despite nearly giving up 300
"That was a real good win for our football team,"
Belichick said. "We fought back and made plenty of plays in all three
phases of the game. I'm just really proud of the way they responded to
the challenge. They stepped up and played good football. I'm really
happy about the win. They did a great job this week."
Now the Patriots must win their remaining two
games and hope the Steelers lose at least once to ensure the road to
the Super Bowl will have to go through Foxboro. There are still
problems to solve, but the Patriots showed tenacity Sunday, and it's a
good sign moving forward.
--The Patriots clinched their third consecutive
division title Sunday and qualified for the playoffs for the 19th time
in franchise history.
Additionally, the Patriots have advanced to the
postseason 13 times in the 18 seasons Bob Kraft has owned the team, and
only six times in the previous 34 years.
--With 53 yards in Sunday's win, TE Rob Gronkowski
pushed his 2011 total to 1,141 yards. He's the 18th tight end in NFL
history to finish with 1,100 or more yards in a single season.
Gronkowski only needs 34 yards to break Ben
Coates' single-season franchise record of 1,174 yards. The NFL record
for yards by a tight end is 1,290, set by Kellen Winslow in 1980.
--QB Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes in
Sunday's win, giving him 13 games with at least two touchdown passes
The NFL record for the most two-touchdown passing
games in a single season is 15 by Dan Marino in 1984; Brady fell shy of
that record with 14 two-touchdown games in 2007.
More Dolphins News: Dolphin Digest
More Patriots News: Patriots
Newswire -- Recent
More Broncos News: BroncoReport.com
-- Game Talk
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