NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
So was it worth all the hype? Did this game change anyone’s perspective on Tim Tebow?
The answer to both questions is probably no, but it was a fun game to watch as a Patriots fan.
It seems like every game starts off the same now. The Patriots start off slow (this time on defense), the internet panics and is calling for everyone’s heads (Belichick, Bill O’Brien, “the pass rush”), and then everything clicks into place and we’ve got a blow out on our hands before we know it. It would be naïve to think this team has no, or even few, flaws, but it’s obvious at this point that the offense can keep up with anyone and that even the best defense has trouble stopping them.
As for Tebow, I still think he’s a good football player. He’s probably the worst passer in the league right now, but he’s a smart player. He limits turnovers and is intentionally inaccurate at times, meaning he’ll be far more willing to throw the ball away than most QBs. He knows his limits and is definitely putting his team in the best scenario to win football games. Is this a reason to talk about him non-stop in the national media? Absolutely not, but this is the age we live in and when there’s a big story to talk about, it’s going to be thrown in your face. If you don’t like it, do what I started to do years ago, don’t watch, don’t listen.
The absolute key to this game was the three fumbles the Patriots forced and recovered in the second quarter. The difference between the first quarter and the rest of the game was night and day. Without those turnovers, Denver could have kept pounding the ball and not even worried about Tebow’s throwing inefficiencies.
After Lance Ball’s fumble (the Broncos first turnover), you could already see Denver changing things up a little bit, with Denver coming out throwing on their next drive. After Tebow’s failed pitch forced and recovered by Mark Anderson, the Broncos came out firing even more, leading to a three and out and another Patriots score after the Quan Cosby muffed punt return. That eight minute sequence was not only what turned this game around for the Patriots, but it’s also what turned it into the blow out that it became.
With the Patriots up nine at the half and eighteen midway through the 3rd quarter, it put the game just far enough out of reach for the Broncos. Tebow only threw eight of his 22 passing attempts in the first half. The more the Broncos pass, the less they can control the clock and more their defense is forced to be on the field. I’m not saying the Patriots outright exploited this Broncos team, but they certainly showed that their defense might not be all that it’s been cracked up to be.
REACTING TO ADVERSITY
The Patriots defense/coaching easily could have stayed their course and continued with the same defensive alignments despite how much they were failing like they seem to have done in the past, but they didn’t. Once the base 4-3 wasn’t doing its job against the run and once Andre Carter went out, it was obvious that something had to change. That’s when the Patriots started using more 3-4 looks, using Mark Anderson as an OLB.
Anderson had a huge game forcing and recovering Tebow’s fumble in the second quarter and getting two sacks after Andre Carter was out. It was nice to see that Anderson can get some pressure even if Carter is not on the other side forcing double teams.
Eric Moore was brought in for a few drives late in the game and after reviewing the tape last night noticed some nice things out of him. I saw him bring pressure a couple times and not get shoved around too much in the run game. He should take over Anderson’s third down role with Carter out, while Anderson plays more snaps in Carter’s place. A lot of people complain about Anderson against the run, but I can assure you he’s not as bad as some make him out to be.
DEFENSIVE BACK PLAY
Granted, it was against Tebow, so a lot of the incompletions were throwaways or inaccurate passes, but the Pats pass coverage looked a lot better this week. Devin McCourty played the best allowing two receptions on eight targets for 54 yards. Most of those yards came on a 39 yard pass in the fourth quarter to Demaryius Thomas. There appeared to be some miscommunication between he and Sergio Brown that lead to the reception.
Arrington allowed six receptions on ten targets for 97 yards and did not look overly impressive. Demaryius Thomas beat him multiple times. Other than those two, Tracy White was 2-2 for 36 yards, Jerod Mayo was 0-2 and Dane Fletcher was 1-1 for seven yards. The Patriots didn’t allow any touchdowns through air, nor did they force any interceptions. The Patriots safeties were poor against the run early (especially Matt Slater, which forced Sergio Brown into action), but they had their strongest game in a while against the pass. The Patriots continue to miss Patrick Chung against the run. He was so good against the Chargers, Dolphins and Steelers early in the season, it would have been a big boost in stopping the run.
INSISTENCE TO CONTINUE RUNNING THE BALL
The Patriots weren’t getting anywhere running the ball early in the game, but thankfully that didn’t stop them from continuing to pound the ball. The Patriots 141 yards on the ground for a 3.9 ypc is what partially lead to the Patriots leading the Broncos in time of possession 33:41 to 26:19. Stevan Ridley was a sight for sore eyes with 65 yards on eleven carries, while Danny Woodhead ran for his first TD of the season going for 40 yards on seven carries.
Tom Brady didn’t help the team’s ypc average much with six carries for two yards, but he did help the time of possession and wasting Denver’s timeouts with three straight QB sneaks in the fourth quarter which lead to a four and half minute scoring drive and two Denver time outs.
EXPLOITING DENVER’S PASSING DEFENSE
It’s really great to have three elite targets for Brady. You might think I’m crazy to call Aaron Hernandez “elite,” but he is an elite receiving tight end and yesterday proved why. If Gronk and Welker are blanketed, Brady can just as easily turn to Hernandez to have the big game. Hernandez went off for 129 yards on nine catches and eleven targets and a TD. I said this on twitter yesterday, but has there ever been a tight end with better moves than Hernandez? I brought it up last week, but that same move works every play where he takes a step back, jukes right and then barrels forward.
The Broncos had no answer for Hernandez as long as they were willing to single cover him and it hurt them. Sure, they can say they shut down Welker and Gronk (to a certain extent), but Hernandez allowed this team to win.
It was nice to see Ochocinco grab his first TD of the season. It was also nice to see that he was the 3rd receiver on the field. He played in 54 of 78 snaps. Nate Solder played 19 snaps on offense, which allowed Marcus Cannon to get a long look at RT. Cannon’s going to be a great player to have around, especially if Vollmer’s back problems are chronic. The Patriots seem to have gotten a steal in Cannon. Can a rookie win comeback player of the year?
SHUTTING DOWN DENVER’S PASS RUSH
The Patriots offensive line continued their impressive season allowing just two sacks to the Broncos and blanking Von Miller. Miller, who’s been one of the best players in the league this season, not just among rookies, had one tackle on Brady after a muffed snap.
There was a scary moment when Brian Waters went down, but he came back just a few plays later. The worst play along the offensive line was by far Elvis Dumervil’s brutal sack on Brady. It looked like Solder was passing Dumervil off, but there was no one to pass him off to and he had a clear shot at Brady. Those are mistakes you’ll see out of rookies, but they’re also mistakes you can’t make when Tom Brady is your quarterback.
Not everything was rosy about this game, here are some negatives I saw:
-BenJarvus Green-Ellis still doesn’t seem completely healthy, he had one run where I saw a real burst, but that’s it.
-Dane Fletcher looked a bit off watching the game a second time around. He’s much better than Guyton or Koutouvides, but there’s still some rust to knock off. He wasn’t filling his gaps on every play and I saw a few missed tackles.
-Speaking of missed tackles, they were all over the field in that first quarter. Rob Ninkovich had a couple bad ones, James Ihedigbo and Matt Slater couldn’t tackle anyone, even the defensieve (you see what I did there?) line was whiffing.