PHOTO: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots delivers a pass against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 16, 2005 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
PATRIOTS - BRONCOS: Report Cards
By Site Staff
PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Faced with a big early deficit, Tom Brady threw a season-high 46 times, but completed only 24 passes for his lowest completion percentage of the season (52.2). He wasn't sacked, but that was deceptive since he was harassed all day and was knocked down just after he threw on numerous occasions. Brady heated up late, going a combined 8-of-11 for 100 yards on the Patriots' two touchdown drives. He was hurt by several drops in the second half, including critical ones by David Givens (7 catches for 58 yards) and Deion Branch (7-87). Brady fell a yard short of his fourth 300-yard game of the season.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- With Corey Dillon dressed but sitting out -- presumably to rest a sore ankle -- Patrick Pass (10 attempts for 64 yards) gave a gallant effort. Pass had runs of 8, 10, 15 and 17 yards. Amos Zereoue, seeing his first action on offense since signing on Sept. 28, had a 12-yard run but finished with just 14 yards on seven carries. Falling behind 21-3 at the half and 28-3 in the third quarter rendered the running game largely irrelevant. The Patriots ran 19 times and passed 46 times.
PASS DEFENSE: D-minus -- For a third straight week, an opposing quarterback registered a passer rating of 100-plus against the Patriots. Jake Plummer, who came in completing just 56.5 percent of his throws, was 17-of-24 for 262 yards and two touchdowns (a rating of 134.4). The Broncos had just seven passing plays of 20-plus yards over their first five games yet burned the Patriots for bombs of 72 yards (to Rod Smith) and 55 yards (to Ashley Lelie). Those came in the span of five plays in the second quarter. Cornerback Duane Starks was in coverage both times. The Patriots tightened up in the second half, limiting Plummer to 83 yards through the air, but the damage was done.
RUN DEFENSE: D -- The Patriots allowed 178 yards on the ground as the Broncos averaged 5.2 yards per attempt. The big blow was a 68-yard run by Tatum Bell (13 carries for 114 yards) that set up Denver's third touchdown of the second quarter. Bell also had a 20-yard gallop, and Mike Anderson chipped in 57 yards on 15 carries. The Patriots were once again unable to stuff the run in the red zone as both Bell (3 yards) and Anderson (2 yards) cashed in from in close.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Nothing special on either side as the Patriots played their opponent to a draw here for a third straight week. The Patriots averaged 16.0 yards on kickoff returns and 6.3 yards on punt returns; the Broncos' numbers were no better -- 15.0 yards on kicks and 2.7 yards on punts. A demerit for left guard Logan Mankins getting ejected after Adam Vinatieri's missed field goal on the final play of the first half.
COACHING: C-minus -- The Patriots couldn't snap out of their win-one/lose-one funk and head into the bye week at 3-3. The same problems that have plagued them all season -- no takeaways, no red-zone defense, no consistent running game -- were apparent again. The second quarter in particular was a mess, in all phases. Kudos to the coaches for instilling a never-quit attitude (the Patriots scored the game's final 17 points and had a chance to tie late), but the first-half mistakes were too much to overcome.
BRONCOS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Jake Plummer hit some long throws and didn't throw any interceptions. Plummer, who threw 20 interceptions last year and has a reputation as a poor decision maker, hasn't thrown an interception since Week 2. He played another efficient game against the Patriots, completing 17-of-24 passes.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson are each playing well, and the Broncos rank third in the NFL in rushing offense. Bell is backing up Anderson, but he is on pace for 1,000 yards. He had a 68-yard run against New England and finished with 114 yards on 13 carries. Bell gives the Broncos the threat of a big play anytime he touches the ball.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Broncos allowed New England to get back into Sunday's game because Tom Brady had a lot of time in the second half, and he started picking apart Denver's secondary. The Broncos also didn't get an interception against Brady. Denver got pressure on Brady for most of the first half, but Brady did a good job of getting rid of the ball in the second half.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Denver was facing the unimpressive duo of Patrick Pass and Amos Zereoue because Corey Dillon was out. But Pass had 64 yards on 10 carries and the Patriots averaged 4.7 yards per carry as a team. The Broncos allowed a few long runs in the second half as the Patriots got back in the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Broncos got another strong performance from Todd Sauerbrun, who averaged 52.3 yards per punt. His net average was 46.9 yards. Denver didn't allow any long returns to Tim Dwight on punts or Bethel Johnson on kickoffs. They didn't get any long returns either, and have only one long return in six weeks.
COACHING: B -- The Broncos took advantage of some of New England's injuries. They hit on a few long plays in the passing game, exploiting some of the inexperienced players and weaknesses in the Patriots' secondary. The only concern was that for the second straight week, Denver almost blew a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter.
Fans, submit your own grade for Sunday's game: ( link )