After getting by with tight AFC East victories over the Bills and Jets in the first two weeks of the season, New England came crashing back to reality with a disappointing 17-7 loss to the Broncos on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Tom Brady and the New England passing game continued to struggle with the new mix at receiver. Brady completed 31-of-55 passes for 320 yards with a touchdown, but most of the numbers came late in the game with the Broncos lighting up on the defensive end with a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
While Brady had just 12 completions for 135 yards in the first half, it was the New England ground game that struggled the most. After Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney combined for more than 300 yards through the first two weeks, New England managed just 50 yards on 21 carries (2.4 avg.) against an aggressive and sure-tackling Broncos front seven Sunday night.
The Patriots defense played relatively well in the loss, but allowed wide receiver Javon Walker to do most of the damage for the Denver offense with touchdowns from 32 yards and 83 yards. Walker, who the Patriots tried to acquire in the offseason, finished with three receptions for 130 yards with the two scores serving as the big blows to the Patriots chances at victory.
After the game, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was rather simple in his analysis.
"We just got out-coached and out-played," Belichick said. "They did a better job than we did. That's obvious. We have to go back to work and need to improve in every area."
The road doesn't get any easier for the Patriots (2-1) as they travel to Cincinnati next Sunday afternoon to take on the undefeated Bengals.
--WR Doug Gabriel saw action in his second game in a New England uniform, recording his first reception as a Patriot. Gabriel finished the game tied for a game high with 6 catches for 65 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown.
--RB Corey Dillon left the loss to the Broncos in the first half with an arm injury and did not return. In less than a half of action Dillon finished with five rushes for 16 yards.
--RB Laurence Maroney had the biggest struggle of his young career, carrying 12 times for 18 yards (1.5 avg.) in the losing effort.
--QB Tom Brady continued to struggle with is new look receiving corps, with many passes hitting the ground or getting thrown away. Brady finished completing 31-of-55 passes for 320 yards with one touchdowns and no interceptions for a 79.4 passer rating.
--FS Eugene Wilson left the game in the second half with a leg injury. He was replaced in the lineup by second-year player James Sanders. Sanders struggled in coverage and played a key role in allowing Javon Walker's 83-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
--WR Chad Jackson (hamstring) was inactive for the game. The rookie second-round pick made his pro debut a week earlier with two catches including a touchdown in New