Plain and simple; this was a heartbreaking defeat. I am not going to bore you with play-by-play analysis, because frankly if you are reading this article then there is a damn good chance you tuned in to the game. Instead, I will give you a fans perspective on the game, and really the season. That's what we do here at BBS.
For the first time in recent memory, the Patriots' offense was the reason that they lost this game. For as much crap as I have given the defense this season (note: I am the one that said they would not win SB50 because of their defense), they played above and beyond anyone's expectations. They kept the Pats in this game, and moving forward, could prove to be a vital part of another championship run.
Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins were playing at all-world levels the entire game, while Logan Ryan, who by default is the Patriots' #1 CB, was able to hold his own against an extremely talented Denver wide receiving corps as the game wore on. Defensive tackles Alan Branch and rookie Malcom Brown held their own in the interior, while Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones were able to put pressure on Peyton Manning as the game progressed.
Unfortunately, a major achilles heel for the Patriots for the entire season eventually came back to bite them where it hurts. With the absence of franchise left tackle Nate Solder, who was lost earlier in the season to a torn right-bicep, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Canon and Cameron Fleming all took turns at various positions on the makeshift offensive line. While they aren't totally to blame, they certainly did not help the one-dimensional style of offense that the Patriots play.
As a result, Tom Brady was hit early and often. In fact, after sustaining 23 hits against the Broncos, no other quarterback took more hits in the entire 2015-2016 NFL season. And people call Tom Brady soft.
Make no mistake about it, however, Tom Brady did not play well. He was throwing into double coverage and forcing the ball to not only Rob Gronkowski, but a less-than-100% Julian Edelman. As a result, Brady completed only 48.2% of his throws and threw two interceptions. However, to his credit, TB12 hung in there all game, and, in the end, gave his team the opportunity to win the game.
Because the Broncos were expecting the Patriots to pass, Von Miller, among others, was able to pin his ears back and take free shots at Brady throughout the game. The Broncos simply didn't need to honor the run, because the Patriots run game would have been the same if you or me were out there in the backfield.
In the end, this season is going to be remembered because of all the injuries that the Patriots were able to sustain. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Sebastian Vollmer, and Brandon LaFell were among just a couple of players that were lost for portions of the 2015-2016 season. That is not even taking into account the players (Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount, Jerod Mayo, Nate Solder) that were lost for the entire season.
The Patriots have a plethora of areas that they can improve, but the core of Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski assures them that they will at least make it the Conference Championship every year if those guys are healthy and ready to go.
Throughout the offseason, we will talk about the different areas on both sides of the ball were the Pats should look to improve, so be on the lookout. Football season never ends.
Thanks for everyone that read our Pats coverage this season! We really appreciate it and are looking forward to getting back to it this September.
By Pete Packowski