PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- Any
doubts about Tom Brady's ability to rekindle the playoff magic from
early in his career were put to rest Saturday when he tied a playoff
record with six touchdown passes against the Broncos. TE Rob Gronkowski
continued his dream season by catching three of the six touchdowns.
Overall, Brady finished 26 of 34 for 363 yards with only one
interception. This was an absolute thrashing from start to finish, and
Brady led the charge from the opening kickoff.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Aaron
Hernandez, a tight end, averaged 12.2 yards against the Broncos. How's
that for a new wrinkle in the game plan? The Patriots obviously rode
Brady's arm to victory, but Hernandez provided a unique change of pace
with five carries Saturday, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis picked up the
tough yards in between. The numbers weren't eye-popping, but they
didn't need to be; even with a sizeable lead, the Patriots never really
made a concerted effort to run out the clock. The only downside was a
fumble by Stevan Ridley, which will undoubtedly be scrutinized by the
coaching staff this week.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- This
figured to be easy picking for the New England secondary, and it was,
primarily because the Broncos made little to no effort to take any
risks down the field. Tim Tebow only attempted 26 passes, completing
nine of them. He threw no touchdowns or interceptions, nor did he ever
take any shots at the Patriots' patchwork secondary. This wasn't much
of a test for the defense, but it passed whatever challenge it did face
with flying colors.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- You
can't be too hard on the defense given the final outcome, but there
were times early in the game, primarily during the infant stages, when
the Broncos had success on the ground with Willis McGahee and Lance
Ball. Ultimately, the Patriots' offense put this one away early,
ruining any chance Denver's running game had of making an impact, but
McGahee and Ball still combined for 120 yards. This needs to improve
with Ray Rice and the Ravens coming to town.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Zoltan
Mesko didn't have to punt much considering the Patriots scored at will
in this game, nor did Stephen Gostkowski get much work on field goals,
though he did kick six extra points. There weren't any game-changing
returns on either side, a near impossibility in a game that was decided
by the second quarter.
COACHING: A -- The use of Aaron
Hernandez in the running game showed a lot of creativity on New
England's part, and the defense did what all defenses should do against
Tim Tebow, which is defend the deep part of the field and dare him to
execute a 12- to 13-play drive without making a mistake. Everything
worked to perfection Saturday, which is a rarity in the postseason,
but, if anything, it shows this coaching staff hasn't lost its touch
quite yet. A bigger challenge looms on the horizon in Sunday's
conference title game.
BRONCOS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: F -- QB Tim
Tebow pulled the trigger against Pittsburgh in the wild-card round, but
the chamber got jammed against New England. Tebow seemed tentative and
when he did get the ball off, some drops by receivers did him no
favors. Tebow finished with only nine completions on 34.6 percent
accuracy -- with only nine passing yards while Denver trailed by 35
points in the third quarter.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The first
drive started well enough, with Willis McGahee breaking off a 19-yard
gain and Tebow scrambling for 14 more. But once Tebow was sacked on a
blind-side hit and fumbled, it was an uphill battle. A big deficit put
Denver in pass-first mode, but even prior to that, the Broncos couldn't
control the line of scrimmage and play the ball-control game they favor.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Broncos
have had difficulty matching teams with top-tier spread offenses all
season, from Green Bay to Detroit to New England. There was no bigger
example than against Tom Brady, who deftly stayed away from Champ
Bailey and carefully chose mismatch after mismatch. Brady's six TD
passes tied an all-time postseason record held by Daryle Lamonica and
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Aspects of
Denver's late-season defensive issues surfaced again against New
England: the inability to contain the edge coupled with problems
securing tackles. Aaron Hernandez, yes, a tight end, was the leading
rusher. Denver had seen him align in the backfield before but he busted
off a 43-yard run on the first offensive play, setting the tone for a
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Nothing to
see here. Britton Colquitt had the misfortune of punting time after
time into the wind in the first half deep in his own territory and
experienced the blowback. The return game was not a factor for either
COACHING: C-minus -- A
convergence of circumstances conspired against Denver -- a rested New
England team with oodles to prove at home with two weeks to prepare.
Still, the depth and breadth of the beat-down had to be disappointing.
Denver offensively had to get away from its strengths and couldn't
deliver. The defense tried to fool Brady with coverages to no avail by
not being able to apply pressure and being outmanned from a personnel
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Report Cards: Patriots - Broncos
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