NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
All season we’ve waited for the Patriots to put it all together and play their best for sixty minutes, on Saturday night, we finally saw it.
Somehow, the game was even more dominant than the 45-10 score makes it seem. As Ty Law said on Comcast Sports Net, the Patriots made the Broncos look like a college team.
Before we get into next week’s much tougher matchup against the Ravens, here are my six keys to Saturday’s victory:
COMPLETE DOMINANCE BY THE “31ST RATED” DEFENSE IN THE LEAGUE
All season long I’ve been downplaying how “bad” this defense is. We’ve seen every down this team has played, we know where a lot of the yards are coming from and Saturday was no different.
75 of Tim Tebow’s 136 passing yards came in one drive in the fourth quarter. The Patriots prevent defense kicked in, but like we’ve seen all season, maybe they bent on that drive, but they didn’t break with a goal line stand at the three yard line.
The Patriots might not have a won the turnover battle on Saturday, but they also proved that they don’t need to to still have a dominating performance. Another thing to see is that the Pats were back to winning the penalty battle. The Broncos committed five penalties for 55 yards while the Patriots only committed two penalties for 20 yards. That’s a team playing smart when it really matters.
We saw a classic Brady performance in Foxboro Saturday night, and also a record setting performance. Brady tied Steve Young and Daryle Lamonica with six touchdowns in a playoff game. He also completed 76% of his passes for 10.7 yards per completion. Those are otherworldly numbers.
He struggled briefly at the end of the first quarter with some inaccurate passes, one resulting in an interception, but if take out that small section of his game, he played nearly perfect.
We’ve seen it all year, but Brady got it down with his legs a couple times too, getting two first downs on QB sneaks. The Pats have perfected that play so well, that there’s really no doubt about getting a first down when it’s down to one or two yards. Brady will sneak through his offensive line for that first down.
To be fair, the Broncos offensive line has been pretty bad all year, but the Patriots were all over the Broncos backfield all game. It was one of the best pass rushing performances I’ve ever seen out of a Patriots team.
From Pro Football Focus, the Patriots finished with 19 QB pressures, four QB hits and five sacks. Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork each had 1.5 sacks, while Brandon Spikes and Shaun Ellis had a sack a piece. Nink was bringing pressure all game from his SLB position with a QB hit and two pressures to add to 1.5 sacks.
Gerard Warren, Wilfork, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love and Spikes each had two QB pressures a piece while Ellis had four and Mark Anderson had three. Love, Spikes and Niko Koutouvides each had one QB hit a piece as well.
To add to all that pressure on the QB, the Patriots also had ten tackles for a loss, to finish with 15 total negative plays. We’ve worried about the pass rush all season, especially with Andre Carter out, but the Patriots were really able to bring it on Saturday.
The Pats might have allowed 144 yards on the ground, but they also never gave up a running play longer than 19 yards and they were able to sniff out the Broncos option runs to deem it almost useless. Nink and Anderson were especially adept at holding their ground when the option would come to them, and not only not allow the pitch, but to then react to the play choice and go after the runner. Limiting Tebow to just 13 yards (and 0 4th quarter comebacks!) was huge.
Click on page two for the next three keys.