By Rich Kurtzman
The NFL’s game of the week turned out to be nothing more than a lopsided affair for most of the contest as Tom Brady showed Peyton Manning he runs the hurry-up offense better than anyone else in the world.
Brady hustled and bustled his Patriots down field with ease; he and the offense pushed a 7-7 game to a 31-7 route. The Broncos and Manning pushed back to bring the game to 21-31, but a late fumble by running back Willis McGahee ended the comeback attempt and Denver fell to 2-3 while New England improved to 3-2.
The Broncos weren’t special in any aspect of their play Sunday, and it led to the loss. Let’s take a look at how they graded.
Denver’s offense was good; not nearly the level of greatness that the Patriots put on display, though. The Broncos started too slowly, tying the game up in the second quarter, then fumbled away chances three times.
After a 43-yard completion on the game’s opening possession, Demaryius Thomas fumbled the ball away, ending a long drive and a scoring opportunity. Following the Patriots’ painfully long and efficient drive, Peyton Manning was sacked and fumbled the ball, which New England scored their final touchdown on three plays later. And when the Broncos were making their comeback attempt in the fourth, McGahee’s fumble sealed the deal.
Offense Overall: C
Denver’s defense was poor Sunday.
Regularly, the unit couldn’t get set, with players moving around at the snap as Brady hurried to the line and caught them off guard. The Patriots imposed their physical will on the Broncos defensive front seven, running the ball almost every time Brady was under center and Stevan Ridley went over 100 yards on the ground in the third quarter.
Still, there were some standout performances, namely by Von Miller. Miller was relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback and ball-carriers, one time going low and under offensive linemen near the goal line to stop Ridley for a loss. It forced New England to kick a field goal and kept the game within reach. In all, Miller led the team in tackles with seven, including two sacks and a forced fumble.
Defense Overall: C-
Once again, the special teams were anything but special Sunday.
There were two standout plays of the day from the unit; one a 33-yard kickoff return by Omar Bolden, the other a downed punt at the Patriots’ two-yard line by Chris Gronkowski.
Special Teams Overall: C-
Coaching was decent but not great Sunday, a common theme that ran throughout the Broncos team.
Play-calling certainly left something to be desired in the first half, when the team could only find a way to put seven points on the board. Early in the third quarter, Jon Fox decided to go for it on fourth and one from the Pats’ 47, and Manning’s pass to McGahee was dropped, turning the ball over on downs. If you’re going for it on that play, just keep the ball on the ground to limit possible mistakes and maximize chances of converting.
The biggest head-scratcher from Fox came when he chose to squib kick the ball after the Broncos came to within 10 points. The Patriots lined up in an onside recover formation so Fox told them to kick it 25 yards and hope for a weird bounce. Rob Gronkowski fell on the ball and it gave his team wonderful field position.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.