- After plenty of speculation about the Patriots' defense, it seems that they have righted the ship, as New England leaves Denver with a 41–16 win.
Three thoughts from the Patriots’ 41–16 win over the Broncos on Sunday Night Football...
1. Aside from the electric first half performance from Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (six catches, 137 yards), New England appears to have shored up its defense in the last month, holding each of its last five opponents to fewer than 17 points. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore delivered an encouraging performance against wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, and the New England front seven shut down the running game in the red zone. One wonders how this defense will respond when confronted with one of the league’s better tight ends, as opposed to Jeff Heuerman and A.J. Derby.
2. It’s difficult to understand Broncos coach Vance Joseph’s decision to stick with rookie kick returner Isaiah McKenzie, who has fumbled five times this season after Sunday night. McKenzie’s fumble of a Patriots’ punt on the opening drive set up a Tom Brady touchdown pass to Rex Burkhead and a lead New England would not relinquish. The early score gave Brady the ability to lean on the run against a defense that can struggle against a power running game. Meanwhile, Broncos edge defenders Shane Ray and Von Miller were largely non-factors with Brady completing 25 of 34 passes for 266 yards to running backs and tight ends, including all three of his touchdowns.
3. This looked like a poorly-coached football team lacking in situational awareness more than in any other game in a disappointing season for Denver. The Patriots exploited a number of matchup head-scratchers, with Broncos linebackers struggling to keep up with slot receivers and tight ends. No mental lapse was more glaring than a second-half sequence in which the defense earned a stop on third down, only to be penalized when New England lined up for a quick punt and caught the Broncos with 12 men on the field.