Immediate reactions; first off a little surprised seeing as this Denver team has looked better than it did last year as of late and with only one loss to the Seahawks (in Seattle) this Broncos team was absolutely the biggest test of the year.
Going into the game my concern was not the red hot Peyton Manning offense that seems to score at will, but it was the 4th ranked defense that Brady’s offense has to go up against. A defense with a pass rush that is probably the best in the league with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware playing the best they’ve ever played in their careers. I wasn’t sure how the young offensive line was going to hold up against the leagues best rush.
When the game got into the 2nd quarter those concerns went out the window when I realized that the Patriots won this game before even stepping on the field. They won this game in the film room and out on the practice field. Bill and Tom did what they do best and prepared for this game so nothing could go wrong.
Thats certainly what it felt like, watching Tom hit Gronk for 10, the Edelmen for another 8, put the ball on the ground with Gray for 4 and a pile of dust, then hitting Gronk or LaFell down field for 20. It was vintage Brady and his unstoppable offense at its finest.
Without a few drops by LaFell I think we would have put up 60 on this 4th ranked defense. The offensive game plan was clicking on all cylinders. You know that you have a D on it’s heals when you only need to run 1-2 plays on average in the red-zone before scoring a touchdown.
It looked like it was too easy. It took one play after the Browner pick mid way through the 3rd quarter to score when Brady hit Lafell on a 10 yard slant and walked into the end-zone nearly untouched and when Edelmen scored that touchdown early in the 4th quarter but it was called backed because the ball was not secure, the very next play they get into their goal-line formation, motion Gronk out the left to get him in one-on-one coverage, then just threw him a quick slant for a 1-yard touchdown that put them up 43-21 and iced the game.
It was simple plays like that that made us look really good and Denver really bad and that is all a credit to preparation.
Brady was rushed in the pocket only one or two times and only sacked once and to me, that is a great game for this offensive line that has received so much criticism all year. I think they finally have their blocking schemes down, for example; there was one play in the first half where the pocket was collapsing and it looked like Brady was going to have to move out of the pocket with a rush coming from his left but all the sudden the whole line shifted and Stork made a huge block picking up a blitzer which in turn, gave Brady that extra half a second to look down field and find Gronk for a pretty good gain.
Now on to the defense.
I’d give them a B+ against any other team but since it was Manning and the Bronco I’ll bump it up to an A- because they did their job for the most part throughout the game.
Sore spots are the pass rush but you can see more about that in Justin’s post.
Main thing I took from this game was the fact that they were 3-11 on third-down conversions. I have to tip my cap to Matt Patricia for that one because again, preparation won this game. Granted he has best corner back tandem in the league with Revis and Browner (yes better than Seattle) but it’s one thing to have them it’s another thing when you know how to use them which he did in this case winning the matchup battle 9 times out of 10 in this one.
On the other end of it they did let up 481 total yards and 3 touchdowns but only 43 on the ground and most of those pass yards came at the tail end of the game where it didn’t matter.
Overall I think this defense could be the best in the league with room to improve on a lot of things as of right now.
In conclusion, I can’t wait to see the Broncos again come this January when they come to town for another AFC Championship Game showdown. This time with a little bit different outcome.