11 Winners, 4 Losers in Broncos' 18-12 Upset Victory Over Patriots
The Denver Broncos pulled off what very few talking heads around the NFL predicted, upsetting the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium 18-12 on Sunday. The Broncos went 17 days between their last game and Sunday's tilt at Foxborough, and the rust could be seen falling off in chunks, but this team was no worse for the wear.
Although the Broncos failed to score a touchdown, offensively, this team produced 299 total yards against a stingy Bill Belichick defense. On the other side of the ball, Vic Fangio's defense held the Patriots' league-leading rushing attack to 117 yards, most of which came in the fourth quarter when Cam Newton started playing backyard football in an effort to mount a comeback.
There are many winners to celebrate in Denver coming out of the team's second straight win, and only a few losers to revile. Who's who? Let's dive in.
Winner: Brandon McManus | K
McManus continued to earn that four-year, $17.2 million extension he signed on the doorstep of the season. Without several clutch kicks from McManus, the Broncos don't win this game.
All-in, the kicker went 6-for-6 on field-goal attempts, two of which were from 50-plus yards, setting a new single-game franchise record. McManus got the deserved game-ball from Coach Fangio.
Winner: Drew Lock | QB
Lock's performance was inconsistent, especially in the fourth quarter, but without him back in the lineup, the Broncos don't win this game. Lock was throwing dimes throughout most of this game and although his box score numbers, upon first glance, are ugly, if he didn't have three sure-fire touchdown passes dropped by receivers, and one perfect bomb down the right sideline to DaeSean Hamilton in the second half, the QB's numbers would look markedly different.
Lock was rusty but he was also aggressive and on-point for most of this game. His fourth-quarter interceptions, which came on back-to-back offensive snaps, were bad but without his swag and command throughout, the Broncos don't roll into Gillette Stadium and upset the Patriots. The lesson? All things are possible for a team when it has its quarterback under center.
Winner: Phillip Lindsay | RB
In what was his first action since the second quarter of the season-opener, Lindsay reclaimed his position as the man in the Broncos' backfield with Melvin Gordon recovering from strep throat back in Denver. Lindsay provided an emotional spark to the team and the production the team needed on the field.
Lindsay carried the ball 23 times for 101 yards (4.39 avg). It was his sixth career 100-yard rushing game. The Broncos are 6-0 in those games in which Lindsay eclipses the century mark. There's a lesson here somewhere.
Winner: Malik Reed | OLB
Reed's 2020 campaign got off to a slow start but he came on strong in Week 6, notching two sacks and five tackles (three solo), posting the first multi-sack game of his young career. With starter Jeremiah Attaochu missing his second straight game with a nagging quad injury, the Broncos needed Reed to step his game up and he did just that.
Winner: Shelby Harris | DL
Once again, Harris affected the game by tipping multiple passes at the line of scrimmage, one of which was intercepted. He finished with three tackles as well, telegraphing to the Broncos' front office that it would be wise to offer a multi-year extension now while the gettin' might still be relatively team-friendly.
On Harris' first tipped pass, it was the big fella, DeShawn Williams, who made the diving catch to intercept Newton. Credit to Williams, who finished with three assisted tackles and that pick in his first career start.
Winner: Michael Ojemudia | CB
The rookie corner continues to produce in spades for the Broncos. Ojemudia was once again solid in coverage, breaking up a pass and forcing two fumbles.
This kid will only continue to improve as he learns how NFL QBs and receivers will attack him. Ojemudia couldn't ask for a better collection of defensive coaches to mentor him, and steer him so quickly through his rookie learning curve.
Winner: Bryce Callahan | CB
Callahan picked off his first pass as a Bronco, which in and of itself is reason enough to make it into the winner's column. Throw in the fact that the Patriots were limited to just 171 passing yards at home, and as the Broncos' de-facto No. 1 corner, it's a no-brainer.
Winner: Tim Patrick | WR
Patrick posted his second straight 100-yard receiving game, proving that the first was no fluke. Patrick led all Broncos receivers with eight targets, hauling in four for 101 yards.
He was banged up later in the game, so hopefully it was minor. The Broncos needed production from the X-receiver spot in the wake of Courtland Sutton's season-ending injury and Patrick is obliging with gusto.
Winner: Albert Okwuegbunam | TE
Talk about rust and chunks, Okwuegbunam finally got his first action as a pro and proved that all the coaches' blustering about his lack of blocking prowess has been severely overblown in comparison to his receiving chops. With Noah Fant out, Albert O. and Lock picked up right where they left off at the University of Missouri.
The rookie tight end received a whopping three targets in the end zone. He dropped two of them, while the other was one of Lock's off-target throws. Albert O. finished with two receptions for 45 yards, finishing second on the team with six targets, and proving to the coaches that he needs to be woven into the game-plan, with or without Fant on the field.
Winner: Bradley Chubb | OLB
Chubb once again notched a sack, and harassed Newton all game long. Chubb was also a rock, setting the edge for the Broncos' rushing defense and proving that he's back to form.
Winner: Justin Simmons | S
Lots of winners today and Simmons was one of them. The centerpiece of a virulent trade rumor this past week, Simmons posted arguably his best game of the season, finishing second on the team with eight solo tackles and tipping the pass that Callahan picked off.
If the Broncos get this form of Simmons, there's no reason why the talented young safety can't finally garner that long-term deal from the Broncos. But let's see him perform like this two games in a row.
Loser: Jerry Jeudy | WR
The dropped would-be touchdown pass wouldn't have been so disappointing had it come from almost any other Broncos receiver. But Jeudy has had his share of drops early on as a pro, and as the team's first-round pick, more is expected.
The perfect pass from Lock went through Jeudy's outstretched arms as he was looking back over his shoulder. It wasn't an easy play to make but it was the type that at some point, he has to start making. Jeudy finished with five targets, only hauling in two of them for 32 yards.
Loser: Nick Vannett | TE
Vannett makes it into the loser's column in Week 6 through no fault of his own. Okwuegbunam's emergence in the passing game proved that while Vannett still might offer utility as a blocking tight end, he offers little in comparison as a receiver. The same could be said for Jake Butt, who mostly had to watch as Lock and Okwuegbunam rekindled their college chemistry.
Loser: DaeSean Hamilton | WR
As mentioned, Hamilton dropped what would have been a second-half dagger and failed to make a positive impact. He was targeted twice, both on third down, with zero catches. It's time to give rookie seventh-rounder Tyrie Cleveland a chance because Hamilton is holding this offense back.
Loser: Pat Shurmur | OC
The Broncos were a pitiful 0-for-2 in the red zone. Some of that had to do with the drops but also a lack of creativity and oomph from Shurmur as a play-caller.
On one hand, I loved Shurmur's aggressiveness in the first half of this game, which clearly put Belichick on his heels and discombobulated the Patriots' coverage schemes. On the other, the red zone woes and Shurmur's odd-ball decision to throw deep on Lock's second interception, while protecting a six-point lead with 3:23 to go, belied the offensive coordinator's relative NFL experience.
I'm not ready to crucify Shurmur quite yet, as I've seen from some fans. How could I? After all, Shurmur has had a QB carousel and a plague of injuries, which have confounded his ability to establish consistency as a play-caller and get into a groove. Give Shurmur time with Lock back under center and my bet is that this offense will really begin to take shape and maybe even kick into high gear.