Week 6 Game Recap: New England Patriots 20, Denver Broncos 28
What you need to know
The Patriots played well in the first quarter of the game, but were dominated by Denver in the second quarter, and despite a late rally, came up short. Tom Brady was under duress most of the game, Denver blitzed him many times throughout the game, and was able to throw off his timing on multiple occasions. It did not help Brady that on the last play of the first half, his starting left guard, Logan Mankins, was kicked out of the game for throwing a punch at a Denver player. Brady persevered, and kept firing away to the tune of 46 pass attempts, of which he completed 24 passes for 299 yards, and one touchdown. His numbers would have been even better had he not been forced to rush several passes in which he missed open receivers. He was also victimized by several of his receivers dropping passes they should have held onto easily.
Receivers Deion Branch and David Givens were targeted the most, with 14 and 12 targets respectively. Brady showed a lot of confidence in both of them and looked for them a lot when he needed a first down. Both receivers finished with seven receptions apiece, with Branch parlaying his into 87 yards, and Givens 58 yards. They also both dropped passes that they ordinarily would have caught, with Branch failing to hang onto a pass in the second half that would have been a touchdown. Givens had one ten yard reception called back after instant replay review determined he did not have control of the ball as he fell out of bounds. Overall, both Branch and Givens showed an ability to get open consistently, but a combination of dropped balls and Brady being forced to hurry several of his throws hurt their overall numbers.
Corey Dillon dressed but did not play. The official word was Did-Not-Play Ė Coachís Decision. His replacement, Patrick Pass, had a pretty productive game. Though he only carried the ball ten times, he managed to amass 64 yards on the ground. He was very effective as a pass catcher, with six receptions for 89 yards. Pass proved to be touch in traffic, as most of his yards were gained on runs up the middle, and running through defenders after catching short passes. He seemed to be very comfortable both running and catching the ball.
Overall, despite mounting a charge in the second half where they scored 17 unanswered points, New England appeared rushed when attempting to pass. Because they fell behind quickly in the second half, and by a significant amount, they were forced to abandon the run for the most part, and focus on the pass, which made them easier to defend. They did however show they were not predictable, as evidenced by their two touchdowns. Both touchdowns were scored from the eight yard line on first down. The first one was a run by Pass and the second touchdown was by a pass from Brady to Givens.
The Broncos built a big lead and then held on down the stretch to preserve the victory. Jake Plummer looked very comfortable, as he took advantage of a strong running game to complete several nice play action passes. He threw the intermediate pass and deep pass equally well and effortlessly, which led to his very good numbers of 17 completions in 24 attempts for 262 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. This was in fact Denverís fourth consecutive game without turning the ball over.
Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie were excellent in the passing game. They combined for 204 yards receiving, and both were recipients of very well thrown deep balls by Plummer. Smith showed that he still has the speed to get deep as he hauled in a long pass for a 72 yard reception, which he took to the five yard line. Lelie also hauled in a 55 yard pass, one play after catching a pass for 19 yards. Both receivers looked to be very much in sync with Plummer in this game.
Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell were a very efficient one two punch on the ground. Anderson showed the power he is known for, as he took defenders with him several times for extra yardage, including on his touchdown run. He had another touchdown run called back as it was ruled after replay review that his elbow hit the ground before he stretched the ball across the goal line. Bell displayed the breakaway ability he has shown several times this season. His most spectacular came on a run up the middle. After he broke through the line, he sprinted for 68 yards before being brought down. Bell showed he could be a threat running up the middle or on the outside. His touchdown run came on a power run up the middle where he showed he has enough power to break tackles.
Denver displayed that they too can be unpredictable when in scoring position. On their first score, they had a first down at New Englandís five yard line, and ran Bell twice up the middle until he scored. Their second touchdown came from the seven yard line on a pass from Plummer to Rod Smith. On their third score, Plummer faked a handoff to Anderson, and threw a pass to their fullback. Anderson powered in from the two yard line for their fourth touchdown.
What you ought to know
|QB Tom Brady, Pass: 24 - 46 - 299 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 12 - 0|
While Brady was hurried and under pressure most of the game, he still displayed his trademark poise and brought New England back to within one drive of tying the game. Despite the pressure, Brady made the right decisions most of the day in terms of who his open receivers were. A combination of dropped passes and him missing his receivers due to the relentless pass rush pressure he faced, led to his numbers not being quite as impressive as they were in his previous game. Brady looked to his two starting wide receivers the most, often targeting Deion Branch and David Givens. He made a wide variety of throws including several impressive ones in the face of extreme pass rush pressure, and looked to have his usual high command of the Patriotsí offense.
|RB Patrick Pass, Rush: 10 - 64 - 1, Rec: 6 - 89 - 0 (9 targets)|
Pass played very well as the fill in starter for Dillon. He showed good power when he ran the ball which was just ten times. He did a tremendous job as an outlet receiver, turning nine targets into six catches for 89 yards, including a 39 yard play that was a simple screen pass where he caught the ball and ran through several defenders before being brought down. Pass proved to be a very versatile fill in for Dillon, and showed he could handle the tough runs between the tackles.
|RB Amos Zereoue, Rush: 7 - 14 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets)|
The newly signed Zereoue was not much of a factor, as he did not gain many yards on the ground, and was used as an outlet receiver on a couple of occasions with minimal gains.
Corey Dillon was on the active list and was expected to start right up until kickoff but Bill Belichick changed his mind. Said Belichick, ``We looked at him in pregame warm-ups and he was not physically able to go.'' Dillon was on the sidelines in full uniform with his helmet on. Along with quarterback Doug Flutie, Dillon was the only other Patriot on the active player list that did not play in the game.
Branch and Brady continued to display the strong rapport they have with each other. Branchís numbers could have been more impressive, as he dropped a sure touchdown catch in the second half and had another reception of a deep pass broken up due to a fine play by Denverís middle linebacker. Branch showed he can run a variety of patterns and he and Brady seemed to be on the same page most of the game.
Givens did most of his work on intermediate routes, and he too was victimized by dropping passes he would be expected to catch, and by Brady overthrowing him due to Denverís pass rush. Givens also had a ten yard reception called back due to instant replay review determining he did not have control of the ball as he was falling out of bounds. As evidenced by the number of targets, Brady has a lot of confidence in Givens as a receiver.
|WR Tim Dwight, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0, Rec: 1 - 49 - 0 (5 targets)|
When Dwight was targeted, it was mostly on deep passes designed to utilize his outstanding speed. He managed to pull one of these passes in, but was unable to be a factor otherwise in the passing game. Dwight had an okay day returning punts, averaging just over six yards a return.
Johnson did not have an impact in this game, just having one deep ball thrown his way, and returning one kickoff for 20 yards.
Though he only caught one of the balls thrown his way, Watson was thrown to on some routes that if the passes were complete, could have been big plays in terms of yardage.
Graham was used primarily as an extra blocker in this game.
Vinatieri made both of his extra point attempts, and two of three field goal attempts. His two field goals were made easily from 38 and 39 yards away, while his miss was from 53 yards, as the ball went wide right.
After the first quarter, where they were fairly solid against the run, New Englandís run defense disappeared. They were run over by Denverís two headed attack of Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell, who combined for 171 yards rushing. New England missed their Pro Bowl lineman, Richard Seymour, as both Bell and Anderson were able to run up the middle at will. Both running backs scored a rushing touchdown apiece, and both came with runs up the middle. In addition, New Englandís rush defense gave up an 11 yard scoring run up the middle by Anderson that was called back as replay review determined he was down just before the ball crossed the goal line. On the next play, with New England concerned about stopping the run, a fake to Anderson resulted in an easy throw for a touchdown by Plummer.
New Englandís pass defense left a lot to be desired, even factoring in the many losses they have endured due to injury. Denver quarterback Jake Plummer was hardly bothered, and completed 17 of 24 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns. The Patriotsí injury riddled secondary was no match for Denverís receivers, and their front seven did not mount much of a pass rush on Plummer, recording just one sack, which came early in the game. New England clearly missed their defensive leaders who did not play due to injury, and looked like a defense in need of help, which could come in the form of linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who it was announced has been cleared by the various doctors he has been seeing, to resume practicing.
|QB Jake Plummer, Pass: 17 - 24 - 262 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 6 - 0|
Plummer looked masterful in engineering the Broncosí offense. He capitalized on a strong running game to use play-action passes to great advantage. Plummer threw both the intermediate and deep balls very well, leading his receivers perfectly on many of those throws. He was especially in sync with his starting wide receivers and tight end Jeb Putzier, connecting with them seemingly at will on a variety of passes. Plummer showed that when he has time to throw, he can put up some very impressive passing numbers.
|RB Tatum Bell, Rush: 13 - 114 - 1, Rec: 3 - 20 - 0 (4 targets)|
Bell took great advantage of his running opportunities, and though he had two fewer carries than Anderson, he ran for exactly twice as many yards. This was in large part to a 68 yard run that began with him running up the middle and breaking free then displaying his speed. Bell was also utilized in the passing game, as Denver tried to make use of his game breaking ability in a variety of ways. Bell displayed he can tough it out between the tackles as he ran the ball on consecutive plays inside the Patriotsí five yard line, scoring on the second run. This looks like a situation where Bell and Anderson will work as a one two punch.
Anderson ran very well in the game, despite only carrying the ball 15 times. He showed power between the tackles and twice broke several tackles on his way to the end zone. One of those touchdown runs was called back, but Anderson showed he is an excellent option around the goal line. On two possessions in the red zone, Anderson ran the ball four times for positive yardage, with one of those runs culminating in his touchdown. Even as good as Tatum Bell looked, Andersonís position seems secure. This is looking like a one two punch situation.
|RB Kyle Johnson, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 1 (2 targets)|
Johnson was involved as an outlet receiver on one play as Plummer was avoiding being sacked. His more important target came when he caught a pass off of a play action fake for a touchdown.
Smith showed that he remains one of the gameís productive receivers. He showed deep speed on a 72 yard pass where he outran the defender and dragged another one down to the five yard line. Smith remains one of Plummerís trusted receivers in the clutch, as was evidenced when on a third down play with two minutes remaining; he took a pass, turned and despite being tackled, kept fighting until he gained the first down. That play effectively sealed the game, as New England did not get the ball back after that play.
When Lelie was targeted, he made the most of them. His first target resulted in a 19 yard reception, and then on the very next play, he hauled in a 55 yard pass. He also was targeted once in the red zone, but was pushed out of bounds at the two yard line.
Adams dropped a ball that was catchable, and was not involved in the offense afterwards.
Putzier was used on plays that were designed to gain big plays. He showed some strength and quickness for a tight end on his route running and ability to gain yards after the catch.
Alexander did not play much and was not utilized in the passing game except once as an outlet receiver.
Elam had a quiet game, as his only action was to come in an attempt extra points, of which he converted all four.
The Broncosí run defense was not tested as much as they may have been for two main reasons. One was that Corey Dillon did not play, and the other was that New England was forced to throw the ball in an effort to make up the deficit they found themselves in early in the game. While they gave up 6.4 yards per attempt to Patrick Pass on ten carries, they held his backup, Amos Zereoue to 14 yards on seven carries. Pass attempted most of his runs up the middle, while Zereoue tried to run outside, but the pursuit by the Denver linebackers and linemen kept him in check.
Denverís pass defense was very aggressive and very successful. Although they did not sack Brady or record an interception, they affected the quality of his throws. Denver blitzed a lot, and knocked Brady down seven times halfway through the third quarter. Brady was forced to hurry many of his throws, which led to him missing his receivers several times. On a crucial play in the fourth quarter with less than four minutes left, as New England was attempting to mount a drive, a cornerback blitz forced Brady to throw the ball to an empty part of the field, resulting in an intentional grounding penalty being called, which in essence was the game. Denverís speedy linebackers were all over the field and were active parts of the pass defense. A shining example of this came on a play where Deion Branch went up for a ball, which he caught in the air. Before he could land, Denver middle linebacker Al Wilson came over and hit him so hard he dropped the ball while still in the air.