Wow what a game last night. The Patriots fumble the ball three times on their first three possessions, fall behind 24-0 at half, and somehow pull out a miracle victory in overtime.
Like I stated before, brutal first half for the Patriots. They could not hold onto the ball if their life depended on it. Ridley fumble, Blount fumble, Brady sack fumble. It was horrible. It was hard to watch. But everyone who has watched the Patriots play in the last 12 years knew this game was not over. Why? Because Brady, Bellicheck, and this team will always find a way to win. Brady threw for 344 yard and 3 touchdowns on the evening, all three TD’s coming in the second half. Bolden filled in nicely for Ridley and Blount and racked up 58 yards on 13 carries.
Knowshon Moreno gashed the Patriots for 224 yards on 37 carries, a 6 yard average. Although that looks bad, you need to ask yourself this. Would you rather have Peyton throw for 350 yards or Moreno run for 224? The answer is you would rather have Moreno run for 224. It is better to keep Peyton handing off the ball and not let him establish a rhythm. Did Moreno hurt last night? Yes. But it is better to have Moreno running for 6 yards per play than have Peyton throwing for 15.
What do the Patriots do with Steven Ridley? He has shown he is a very good runner, but he cannot hold onto the ball. So what is the point of having a back who can gain yards but coughs up the ball way to often? There is none. Do we give up on Ridley? No. But he needs to sit a few games and really just practice ball carrying and how to handle the ball. If he keeps fumbling after that, then you seriously start thinking about parting ways.
Ryan Allen had phenomenal punts last night and Bill’s genius showed on why he only drafts left footed punters (Tony Carter fumble).
Now the real question is, what does last night’s game say about these two teams.
For the Patriots it shows that this team is for real. It shows that they can fall in a hole and climb out of it against a previously 9-1 Broncos team. It shows that Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the NFL today (sorry Peyton). It does not matter who Brady has around him, because he makes them better. He expects a high level of play from all his teammates and they are really starting to deliver. It shows that this defense has always had the next man up mentality. One player goes down, another fills in. Obviously guys like Vince Wilfork are unreplaceable but the two new DT’s (Jones, Vellano) are still out there fighting on every down and trying to make plays, and sometimes even making them. It showed that this New England Patriots team is the best team in the AFC, and arguably the best in the league (Seahawks). Are there things we need to work on? Of course. We need to stop the run and our running backs need to learn how to hold onto the ball. But overall a very, very promising win for this Patriots team.
Now for the Broncos. What a brutal way to lose a game. To go up 24-0 against a weak defense and to not be able to close the game is embarrassing, especially when you are “the best team in the league, with the best quarterback in the league”. Peyton never got in a rhythm the whole game and I do believe the cold really did affect him. Peyton is now 1-6 in games below freezing, and like I said coming into this game, the weather would affect him. But either way Peyton did not look good last night. Moreno would run the ball on the first two plays of each set of downs, setting the Broncos up in 3rd and 5 or shorter. Peyton did not make a play on these favorable 3rd downs, and it cost his team the game. But you cannot blame everything on Peyton. The defense also let the Patriots score 34 in the second half and overtime. This Broncos defense is just as suspect as the Patriots defense.
Oh by the way I predicted the 34-31 score in my Broncos vs Patriots Preview. Sure, maybe I didn’t predict how we would get to the final score, but I did predict it.
Now if the Patriots win out and the Broncos drop one more, the Patriots take home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If you do not think that is a big deal you apparently did not watch last night’s game. The Broncos still need to face a tough Chiefs defense at Arrowhead, so if there is a game the Broncos are most likely to drop, it’s that one.
The Patriots (8-3) face a struggling Houston Texans team next week who have dropped nine straight games (2-9). Although this should be a blow out win, I think the Texans will play the Patriots well. Case Keenum is a solid young quarterback and Ben Tate is a talented running back. That being said, I like the Patriots by at least two scores. I will be back later in the week with my official prediction.