On Sunday, the New England Patriots took on a team in the Denver Broncos that had their number for the past couple of years. The Patriots suffered two demoralizing defeats last year to bite their chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions in the ass, while the greatest quarterback to ever live, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, has been a measly 2-7 in Denver for his career.
However, a theme we had been hearing all week leading up to kickoff was that this was a different Patriots team. The Patriots were able to bring back long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia in the offseason, which has done wonders for a line that, up until yesterday, had allowed only two sacks in their previous four games. Guys like Nate Solder are starting to look like their old selves, while newcomers and fringe-53-man guys, like Joe Thuney and Marcus Cannon, have taken that next step in being great football players.
Unfortunately, to start the game yesterday, the Patriots looked anything but a different team. A muffed punt after a three-and-out by the Patriots to start the game gave Brady and company great starting field position, but they were only able to get a field goal to take the lead 3-0. To start the game, Brady looked like a completely different player. He started the game 0-for-6, albeit there being some key drops by Julian Edelman and James White. In the first quarter alone, the Patriots were behind in the yardage category by a tune of 146-39.
Thankfully, the Patriots were able to turn things around behind the phenomenal play of Julian Edelman, who quietly had a very important game for the Patriots. While his stats may not look other-worldly (6 receptions for 75 yards), Brady looked to Edelman when he needed a key catch or first down. Moreover, the play that the Patriots were able to get from their running backs, specifically Dion Lewis, was extremely important to the offense.
Instead of running the ball down the Broncos' throats with LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots attempted to use the shiftier Dion Lewis back there so Denver had to honor not only his elusiveness, but the threat of a play action pass. On the day, Lewis was extremely effective, rushing the rock 18 times for 95 yards behind great line play. Just to show how well the offensive line played yesterday, Von Miller, a candidate for the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award, was held to one hurry, zero quarterback hits, zero sacks, and five tackles.
Defensively, the Patriots had their best game as a unit. Against a number of stout receivers, including Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Patriots were able to match up well with Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler, with help over the top from Devin McCourty. Speaking of McCourty, it is time to start giving this guy some credit. Coming into the league, he was an average, at best, corner back, but has since turned into one of the better safeties in the NFL. Furthermore, this season in particular, it appears that McCourty is taking a page out of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas' book, as he has been laying the wood down on some receivers to pry the ball loose, rather than go for the interception and potentially allow a big play.
The defensive line looked stout, as Alan Branch and Malcom Brown continue to clog up the interior. On the edge, Jabaal Sheard and Trey Flowers were able to get to Trevor Siemian with relative ease and create third-and-long situations.
To be completely honest with you guys, I did not think the Patriots had this type of win in their repertoire. Sure, I believed they could be a perennial Super Bowl favorite, but to go into Mile High, a place that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have historically struggled in, and played A+ football on both sides of the field was truly a thing of beauty. If the Patriots are able to go into an opponent's stadium like the Broncos and lay a beating on them like they did this past Sunday, it may be time to start booking your trips to Houston, if you haven't already.