Ryan L. Fox
During the Belichick-Brady Era, the New England Patriots have struggled playing the Denver Broncos while playing in the Mile High City. Going into the Week 10 match up with the Broncos, the Pats were missing some key players due to injury. Wideout Chris Hogan, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown were all out due to injury. Luckily they got back TE Martellus Bennett (through questionable means) to help bolster their offensive weaponry. But on a night that everybody was watching, one group of players stepped up to the plate and ultimately help swing the game in favor of the visitors.
Things got on off on the right foot for the Patriots. After going 3 and out on their first possession, the Pats were forced to punt. However Broncos return man Isaiah McKenzie ended up muffing the punt and backup TE Jacob Hollister recovered on the Broncos 24. Two plays later, QB Tom Brady hooked up with RB Rex Burkhead for a 14-yard score over the middle to give the Pats an early 7-0 lead.
However on the ensuing Broncos drive, QB Brock Osweiler kept picking on Pats CB Malcolm Butler with Emmanuel Sanders. However the Pats defense were able to clamp down and force the Broncos to settle for a 39-yard field goal by K Brandon McManus to make it 7-3. But then on the ensuing kickoff, RB Dion Lewis outran the Broncos kick coverage team for a 103-yard touchdown to make it 14-3. The Broncos responded back with another McManus field goal to make it 14-6.
The Patriots responded with their own field goal, a 25-yard by K Stephen Gostkowski, to extend the lead to 17-6. They then blocked a Broncos punt, getting the ball on the Broncos 30. Two plays later, Brady hooked up what seemed to be a 19-yard touchdown to TE Rob Gronkowski. However it was waved off as incomplete on the field. Pats coach Belichick tried to challenge the play but the ruling on the field stood. The Pats ended up settling for a field goal to push the lead to 20-6.
Another McManus field goal helped the Broncos cut into the Pats’ lead to make it 20-9 but the Pats were able to score one last touchdown before the end of the half. Brady found TE Dwayne Allen for a 11-yard score as that ended being botch Allen’s first catch and first touchdown pass as a Patriots to make it 27-9 as the first half came to a close.
The Broncos opened up the second half with 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard pass from Osweiler to WR Demariyus Thomas to make it 27-16. However the Patriots responded with their own long drive of their own that was capped off with an 8-yard run by Lewis to make it 34-16 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Pats then tacked on 16-play, 94-yard drive, which ended in a touchdown pass from Brady to RB James White to push the lead to 41-16. After they got the ball back due to S Patrick Chung intercepting an Osweiler pass, the Pats drove down to the Broncos 29. However they came away with no points as Brady’s pass to Gronkowski sailed incomplete.
After forcing the Broncos to punt, Brady was taken out of the game and was replaced by backup QB Brian Hoyer. Hoyer did nothing more than just helped run out the clock and preserve not only their 7th win of the season, but the 86th road victory of Tom Brady’s career and Belichick’s 271 victory, surpassing Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry as having the 3rd most wins by a head coach in NFL history.
Top Patriot Performers
QB Tom Brady: 25-for-34 for 266 yards, 3 TD
RB Rex Burkhead: 10 rushes for 36 yards, 3 catches for 27 and 1 TD, 1 blocked punt
RB Dion Lewis: 14 carry for 55, 1 catch for 2 yards, 103-yard kickoff return for TD
WR Brandin Cooks: 6 catches for 74 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: 4 catches for 74 yards
K Stephen Gostowski: 2-for-2 on FG, 5-for-5 on XP for a total of 11 points
S Patrick Chung: 4 tackles (4 solo), 1 INT
A Legend Passing Another
Regardless if you respect or hate the man, you cannot deny that Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach of the 21st century and perhaps one of the greatest coaches to step onto the field. Against the Broncos, Belichick recorded his career 271st victory as a head coach (regular season and postseason combined). This puts him ahead of Tom Landry (270) for third all-time behind George Halas (327) and Don Shula (364). To pick up 271 victories is remarkable given the fact that his coaching career is split up between 5 years with the Cleveland Browns and 18 years with the New England Patriots.
Gushing for Special Teams
If there is one guilty pleasure that Coach Belichick will admit he has, it’s that he’s a big fan of special teams. If you saw his coaching history, you would see that’s where he first broke into coaching. Now this past Sunday, there were two huge special teams plays that caused the usual stone-faced coach to break out in big grins.
First you had TE Jacob Hollister recovering a muff punt by Broncos return man Isaiah McKenzie that set up a Pats touchdown early in the first quarter. Then you had Dion Lewis return a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown that gave the Pats an early 14-3 lead in the first quarter. Then you had RB Rex Burkehead run up the middle to block a Broncos punt to give his team excellent position (the Pats ended settling for a field goal). Finally in the 4th quarter, P Ryan Allen was able to draw a 12-man on the field penalty on the Broncos to keep a Pats drive alive that led to another Patriots touchdown.
In short, the Pats' special team unit either scored or helped contribute to 24 of the 41 points scored. Pretty damn impressive if I do say so myself.
Bennett the Bum
The Pats have a history of bringing in some questionable characters (Randy Moss, Corey Dillion, LeGarrette Blount to name a few) that came in and essentially turned into top players for the team. So it wasn’t a surprise that they brought back outspoken TE Matellus Bennett back to the fold.
But here’s the part that doesn’t make the Patriots look so…
Bennett originally signed with the Green Bay Packers in the offseason (3 year, $21-million). But after QB Aaron Rodgers went down for the year with a broken collarbone and the Packers were going to essentially be a .500 team, Bennett essentially decided to check out. Then last week, he posted on his Instagram that he suffered an injury and that Packers team doctors tried to force him to play through it.
On the contrary, it turns out that the injury that Bennett suffered (torn rotator cuff) he did not disclose to the team doctors. Also it turns out that team doctors told him he shouldn’t be playing. Bennett was waived and then was picked up by the Patriots last week. Interestingly enough, he somehow ‘passed’ his physical, was able to practice, and actually played against the Broncos. How do you go from possibly having season-ending surgery to being able to play in a game? Simple. He quit, cried like a child, and then got his way. Even though the Pats needed an offensive weapon for Brady, there was chemistry between the two parties, it doesn’t look good for the Pats. Even though Belichick doesn’t give a crap what people think, he might have to reconsider this move (especially if it turns out to be a dud).
Fox Fist Bump
Fists bumps to the Pats special teams. Recovering a muffed punt, blocking a punt, returning a kickoff for a touchdown, and drawing a penalty to help keep a drive alive. Whoever doesn’t believe that special teams matters needs to get their head examined.
Turd in the Punch Bowl
Even though his team won, Butler was brutalized by Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders every time the ball was thrown his way. Sanders finished the game with 6 catches (on 11 targets) for 137 yards. Even though Butler wasn’t covering Sanders on every play, approximately 80% of Sanders production came against Butler.
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