Three things we learned in the Patriots’ 41-16 Patriots win over the Broncos Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
A special kind of evening — Heading into Sunday’s game, the Broncos had the fifth-worst special teams, statistically, in the NFL, a stature that didn’t improve after running into the Patriots. In a game that probably had Bill Belichick beaming afterwards for his team’s play in all three phases, it was the Patriots’ special teams that ended up being the deciding factor in Denver with a handful off game-altering plays in the first half. After a three-and-out to open the game by the Patriots offense, Denver’s Isaiah McKenzie muffed the punt, giving Tom Brady and the offense instant second life at the Denver 24-yard-line. They scored two plays later for a 7-0 lead. With the score 7-3 one series later, Dion Lewis took the Broncos’ kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead. As if that weren’t enough to shine a light on all the special team goodness, Rex Burkhead would block a punt by Denver’s Riley Dixon, giving the Patriots field position at the Broncos’ 30. Stephen Gostkowski would nail a 28-yard field goal five plays later, giving New England a 20-6 lead and points off of every standout play from its special teams. In the fourth quarter, Denver’s punt return unit got caught with 12 men on the field, giving the ball back to the Patriots with a five-yard penalty and first down. The Patriots would score on a Brady-to-James White pass seven plays later for the 41-16 lead.
Denver D gets an F — Who had the Patriots setting a season-high for points scored in Denver, of all places? Just when it seemed that the Broncos might have had some life in the game, marching down the field for a 75-yard touchdown drive early in the third quarter to cut New England’s lead to 27-16, the one-time fierce Broncos defense proved it is a shell of itself. It took the Patriots a mere seven plays to respond with their own 75-yard score, capped by a Lewis scamper into the end zone taken on a hurry-up play that took advantage of Denver’s tepid preparation to get set. The Von Miller-led unit was assumed to the NFL’s top defense heading into the season, but after last weekend’s embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (51-23), the Broncos headed into their showdown with the Pats allowing an average of 24.8 points per game, 24th in the league. That’s a number that’s going to increase after the 41 points New England put up on Denver on Sunday. But we all saw that coming, right?
Martellus and Dwayne and pray for rain — It sure looked like it was going to be another lost evening for beleaguered tight end Dwayne Allen, who not only came into the game still searching for his first catch as a member of the Patriots, but now having to deal wth the addition of Martellus Bennett (three catches, 38 yards). It was some surprise that Bennett was active for the game, especially considering all the debate over the extent of his injury that the Green Bay Packers claim was part of the reason for his release. Regardless, 10 minutes into his first game back with New England, Bennett had already topped Allen for more catches on the season with a 27-yard grab from Brady in the first half. Things looked even worse for Bennett a bit later when Brady sought him out in the end zone, only to watch the ball clang off his hands. Then…finally…Brady found Allen for an 11-yard score with time running out in the first half, and Allen had his first catch of the season. His first touchdown of the season. Maybe the guy just needed a guy of Bennett’s stature present with the team in order to motivate him in the right direction?