Patriots vs Broncos: Six Keys to a Playoff Victory

Rob Ninkovich Patriots Broncos

Rob Ninkovich was a key part of stopping the Broncos offense cold.

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:


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.

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3 Responses to “Patriots vs Broncos: Six Keys to a Playoff Victory”

  1. TD says:

    Key #1: #12, BB & staff doing their best work ever. How many of us, me included, thought that this defense would kill any chances of getting to the big game!

    • Big Dan From Maine says:

      I am another that never saw this defense comming together this well. Now lets just hope they can play 1/2 as well against the rest of the teams they face.

      Is anyone but me excited to see both New Orleans and Greenbay out. The 2 best offenses in the league and we wont have to face them.

      If we get by Baltimore, then only the Giants scare me. That pass rush is looking good, at the right time of the year.

      • Tom says:

        It was the defense that showed up in the shoot-outs against the Cowboys, Giants and Steelers that was worrisome. The defense over the last few weeks has been coming together. They played several games in December where, after the opposing team got an early lead, the defense really clamped down, either shutting down the opposing offense or limiting their scoring. It was great to see that effort Saturday night though, 15 plays for a loss of yardage!

        As for Green Bay, Green Bay in December/January was not playing the same as it was in Sept/Oct. I thought NE could have beaten the GB that has been playing for the last month in the SB. The Giants are problematic to NE for obvious reasons, but I think San Fran is problematic too with two good safeties (too bad Goldson didn’t sign with NE this summer) and Bowman, Smith, and Smith rushing the QB. I would rather have seen NE face GB than either of these two teams. NE can beat the Ravens Sunday, but can’t overlook them. A week full of the media talking about how NE is going to blow the Ravens out (7.5 point favorites already) is going to motivate them. Plus the Ravens hate NE anyway and seem to get up and play great games this season when motivated, e.g. the Steelers.

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