Simply put: it was just a tough game.
The Patriots entered Sunday Night Football as the only remaining undefeated team in the AFC. At 10-0, they were 2.5 point favorites in Denver, a stadium where they have historically struggled.
Without key players, such as Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Jamie Collins and Julian Edelman, this game was going to be difficult to win no matter what.
The Patriots went into Denver and gave them their best shot. Unfortunately, they came up just short.
At the start of the game, the Patriots were moving the ball extremely well. Tom Brady was on point, finding Rob Gronkowski for the first TD of the game quickly in the first quarter. The defense was able to stuff out the run and keep Brock Osweiler uncomfortable, as he was overthrowing receivers.
However, the game started to go downhill late in the first half when Patrick Chung apparently fell on defensive anchor Dont'a Hightower's leg, causing him to miss the rest of the game. After the injury, CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman were able to establish the run and force the Patriots to honor both the run and the pass.
Nevertheless, the Patriots were able to maintain a lead past the half and into the 4th quarter. Seconds into the 4th, Tom Brady connected with Brandon Bolden for his 3rd passing TD of the game, which looked to put the nail into the coffin. Unfortunately, after the Patriots D was able to force a 3 and out, undrafted rookie Chris Harper fumbled the punt return and gave the Broncos excellent field position.
After a couple horrendous calls by the officials, which included a phantom offensive pass interference on Gronk and an even worse holding call on Pat Chung, the Broncos took the lead, 24-21, with just over a minute to go. (I will spare you the Gronk injury talk for now) In typical Brady fashion, with a depleted receiving core, Brady led the Pats down the field to set up a Gostkowski 47-yard field goal.
In OT, the Patriots could simply not move the ball and CJ Anderson took off for a long rushing touchdown to seal the book on the Patriots' first loss of the season.
Next up, Philly. This should be an easy win, with or without Gronk and Amendola.
By Pete Packowski