Since the bogus "spygate" garbage emerged and grew from a mole hill to a media manufactured mountain in 2007, I've been extremely angered and disappointed with the coverage of our Patriots by the Boston press. Unfortunately, the Old Towne tabloids (they no longer deserve to be referred to as newspapers) haven't changed. Both BB and Tom Brady have been thrown to the wolves by the dimwits currently posing as local sportswriters, in the aftermath of New England's 26-16 loss in Denver. I'm also disappointed by some of the so-called Patriots' fans on this forum. Sure, losing to the hated Horseface is both tough to swallow, and extremely disappointing. The Broncos were 5.5 point favorites going into this game for a reason. New England needed to play a near perfect game to have a chance of winning. Unfortunately, a lack of talent, not a lack of desire, did them in. For this season, Denver was the better team. Here are my grades:
I. OFFENSE: A slow start and a couple of bad calls early put the Patriots in a 10-0 hole. Denver played eight and sometimes nine in the box to stop the New England running game, cold. This forced the Pats to have to pass to win...and exposed the weaknesses in the New England receiving corp.
1.) QB: I'm not going to sit back and let Tom Brady get trashed over this loss. The media's agenda was that this game was Manning v. Brady...Round 15...winner take all. But, it was hardly that. There is no comparison to the amount of talent that Manning was surrounded with, to that which Brady had at his disposal. Put another way, does anybody here think that Mr. Wonderful would have broken all those offensive records he set this season with the receiving corp that Brady had? The bottom line is that Brady came into this game carrying a bowie knife, while Peyton had an oozie. Once the Broncos took away the New England running game by employing eight and sometimes nine in the box, the unfair fight was on. Aside from one terrible misfire to a wide open Julian Edeleman early in the game, I thought that Brady played pretty well. He completed 24 of 38 passes for 277 yards and a TD, had a 93 passing rating, and made a nifty move to score a TD on a five (5) yard run. Not a bad effort, considering that all he had to work with was a bowie knife. That "bowie knife" was in the form of WR Julian Edelman, whom Tom targeted a game high 15 times. Of those 15, he completed 10, for 89 yards. Who else did he have to throw to? Unlike Peyton, who had all day to throw, Tom was pressured, and was sacked on three occasions...none bigger than the sack registered by a seemingly untouched Terrence Knighton, on a pivotal 4th and 3 play, late in the 3rd quarter. Could Tom have played better? Yes. Did he play poorly and cost the Patriots this game? No: GRADE: B;
2.) RBs: The Patriots were forced out of their ground and pound by Bronco's DT Terrence Knighton, and by Denver's successful employment of at least eight players in the box. Even the best RBs need opportunities and some room to run. The Pats' stable of RBs were denied both. Credit Shane Vereen for his contributions to the passing game. Vereen was targeted eight (8) times, and finished with five (5) catches for 59 yards. The rushing statistics were gruesome, with LeGarrette Blount gaining 6 yards on 5 carries...17 yards on 5 carries for Ridley...and 34 yards on 4 carries for Vereen, while running against a prevent defense in the 4th quarter. Despite these horrific rushing stats, it's unfair to place the majority of the blame for this on the RBs: GRADE: D+;
3.) OL: In the aftermath of this disapointing loss, everyone is talking about how he Pats must add weapons for Tom Brady, and must improve their pass-rush. Folks, the Pats need to improve the interior of their OL. OC Ryan Wendell had a terrible season, and the Pat badly need to get an upgrade over Dan Connelly at RG. Proof positive was the way that Denver DT Terrence Knighton dominated the center of the line, and helped stop the New England running game cold. Logan Mankins allowed himself to be badly beaten by Knighton on the aforementioned 4th and 3 play...which all but ended the Patriots' hopes of a comeback. Though a serviceable RT, Marcus Cannon likely would excel at RG, and should be permanently moved inside next season. But, I digress. This unit was overmatched and overwhelmed through the game by the Denver front eight. This crew gave their RBs had no chance: GRADE: F;
4.) TEs & WRs: A bad game all around for the Pats TEs. They lack the ability to augment the passing game, and are barely servicable. A huge (and questionable) offensive interference call on the Hooman cost the Pats three points early. As for the WRs, Julian Edelman was outstanding again, with ten catches for 89 yards, and a TD. Austin Collie tried, finishing with four (4) catches for 57 yards. Aaron Dobson (two receptions for 33 yards) has potential. The Pats showed their utter desparation at WR when they trotted out Matthew Slater to run a failed go route. Danny Amendola (targeted once...zero catches) likely played his way out of New England with his horrendous performance: GRADE: C-;
II. DEFENSE: This unit was actually holding it's own, until the Talib injury and a questionable holding call put this group on it's collective heals.
1.) DL: Played the run far better than it did several weeks ago, when Knowshon Moreno ran wild. But, the inability to play an pressure on Peyton Manning was a killer. The Patriots not only failed to register a sack on Manning, but failed to even register even a QB hit. Considering this and the fact that Manning faced a Talib-less secondary, it's amazing that the Pats were able to hold the Broncos to just 26 points: GRADE: D+;
2.) LBs: Another solid game from Dont'a Hightower, who had a TFL among his eight (8) tackles, seven (7) of which were solos. More good things were shown from Jamie Collins, who had seven (7) tackles, including six (6) solos, and a pass breakup. Still, he had his fair share of troubles with Denver TE Julius Thomas, who finished with eight (8) receptions for 85 yards. Nonetheless, the future looks bright for these two young LBs: GRADE: C+;
3.) SECONDARY: To quote Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again. Last year, the Pats' "D" lost it's grip on the AFC Title game to the Ravens after Aqib Talib left that game with an injury. This year, it was the same story, with Demaryius Thomas (seven catches for 134 yards) filling the Bolden role. Talib was injured when Wes Welker barrelled into him on a pick play. Much has been made of the hit. After watching and rewatching the play several times, I am of the opinion that Welker cheap shotted Talib. Folks, if the NFL wants to protect the so-called "defenseless receiver" from these sorts of hits, why aren't DBs accorded the same consideration? Had Welker been hit in a similar fashion by a Patriot DB, you can bet your bottom dollar that a flag would have been thrown, and that a fine of, say, $15 to $21K would have been levied. Though Welker didn't go for Talib's knees, he took full advantage of an opportunity presented, and somewhat blindsided Aqib. In the old days, this play would have been a hard nosed football play. But, in this era of player safety, it was clearly a cheap-shot, should have drawn a penalty, and should draw a fine. Was it the worst cheap-shot I've ever seen? No. But, Welker was surely aware of Talib's value to the Patriots, and of Talib's injury troubles. Those who are crucifying BB for his criticisms are merely pushing the "hate BB" agenda...and love the fact that Welker did something to get back at BB, after BB allowed Welker to move on through free ageny to Denver. Moving on...there was an extremely questionable defensive holding call made on CB Logan Ryan, on a 3rd and one play, early in the second quarter. Had that bogus call not have been made, Denver would have been forced to punt. But, the call gave Manning an extra set of downs. He would eventually drive his team down the field for a TD. The score put the Pats behind the eightball, as Denver jumped out to an early 10-0 lead. Folks, without Talib, the Pats were overmatched in the secondary. Having no one to deal with the skills and physicality of Demaryious Thomas...it as ballgame: GRADE: C-;
III. SPECIAL TEAMS: Solid, as usual. Good performance by rookie Ryan Allen, playing with his sore shoulder...as he averaged 49 yards on three punts. The Ghost made his only FG. No kick returns played a part in this game: GRADE: B;
IV. COACHING: Once the Broncos dismembered the Pats' running game, the team appeared to have no satisfactory alternatives. I thought that the Pats would anticipate Denver stacking the box against the run, and spreading the field early, with a no-huddle attack. But, this isn't the easiest thing to do when playing on the road, in a noisy stadium. The complete lack of confidence in Danny Amendola was striking. Despite his disappointing play, the coaching staff really had no choice but to lean more on him...and should had done so. Would it have mattered? Perhaps not. But, it made more sense than trying to use Matthew Slater on a go pattern. It was imperative to get a WR other than Edelman involved in the offense. Though Austin Collie had his moments, Amendola was their seemingly best hope. The Pats did make good use of Shane Vereen, coming out of the backfield. On defense, the loss of Talib was more than the depleted Pats could stand, in the face of one of the greatest offensive machines in NFL history. Credit the Broncos for stopping the run cold. Though the New England coaching schemes and strategies could have been better, a lack of talent limits the options of a coach...even one as great as BB. It's one thing to scheme against a flawed team like the Colts...but quite another to deal with a powerhouse squad like Denver. This was less a case of the Pats being outcoached, and more a case of being beaten by a more talented team. Folks, the truth be known, this game was lost in the offseason. While the Broncos were adding pieces like WR Wes Welker, DT Terrence Knighton, and pro bowl OG Luis Vasquez, the Pats were losing TE Aaron Hernandez, signing DT Tommy Kelly, adding a worthless Danny Amendola, DT Armand Armstead, and, worst of all, SS Adrian Wilson. Neither Armstead or Wilson played a single down. GRADE C-;
V. PLAY OF THE GAME: The 4th and 3 sack by Terrence Knighton on Brady late in the 3rd quarter pretty much put an end to things.
VI. PLAYER OF THE GAME: Tough call here, with Terrence Knighton being Wilfolk-like, Demaryious Thomas doing a 2012 Anquan Bolden impersonation, and Peyton Manning being Peyton Manning (32/43 for 400 yards, 2 TDs, and a 118 passer rating). My pick goes to Demaryious Thomas. Once Talib was gone, the Pats had no one who could come close to matching up with him.
Here are the game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=340119007
As always, your thoughts and comments on the game are welcome. I share with y'all in your disappointment to the end of an interesting and exciting Patriots' season. Take care, my friends.