This was the test, one of those games that is circled on the calendar. A game with which a team will be judged, fairly, or unfairly.
The Patriots came in riding a four game winning streak with wins against Cincinnati, Buffalo, the Jets and the at the time a Bear team that was imploding. None of that mattered! Yesterday was THE game. The best team in the NFL came to town. A team in the Denver Broncos led by a quarterback playing arguably better than he ever has.
But this was a different Denver team, at least on the defensive side. Off season acquisitions of Demarcus Ware, TJ Ward, and Aqib Talib were brought in to plug holes and cement a return to the big game, much less win it. After Sunday's absolute beat down, 43-21 in Foxboro, the Broncos head back to the mile high city left wondering. Brady and the offense confused the Denver defense all day long showing multiple formations and the offensive line looked very impressive fending off the pass rushing tandem of Ware and Von Miller, allowing a mere one quarterback sack. Brady responded by going 33-53 for 333 yards.
and 4 touchdowns, continuing his torrid 5 game stretch. After a Ronnie Hillman 1 yard touchdown run it was 7-3, Denver at the end of the first quarter. It all went downhill from their for the AFC West leaders as the Pats rattled off 24 consecutive points in the second quarter. Stephen Gostkowski made a 29 yd. field goal and on the ensuing Bronco drive, linebacker Rob Ninkovich return a pick 11 yards to set up a Julian Edelman 5 yard td catch an the pats had a 13-7 lead. Another defensive stop, another Edelman touchdown, this time an 84 yard punt return and their was no looking back. Shane Vereen's five yard catch with :08 seconds left in the half made it 27-7 and that was all she wrote.
On the other side, Manning stats were impressive (34-57 438 yards, 2 TD), but the majority of that came while Denver was in catch up mode. The Patriot defense did not make that easy, however, as they shut down Denver's running game and got pressure on Manning all day long. Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski were the beneficiaries of Brady's final two scoring tosses of the day and the Patriots secured the AFC fast track to the super bowl...for this week anyway.
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