Not sure how to approach this one. On one hand, it’s impressive that the Patriots even got to this point with all of the injuries. At the same time, a playoff loss is a playoff loss. And New England had their chances in this game but Denver just outplayed them.
This game was too reminiscent of last year’s AFC Championship game. Aqib Talib goes down with an injury (thanks Wes) and the Patriots defense couldn’t stop the opposing team’s #1 receiver. Demaryius Thomas had a field day against Alfonzo Dennard yet there were no defensive adjustments made. I really don’t get that one at all.
Unfortunately at the Patriots expense, Peyton Manning had one of the best days of his career. He had all the weapons you could ask for and picked apart New England’s defense. Dennard couldn’t stop D. Thomas, rookie Logan Ryan had an off game, and the offensive line gave Manning all the time in the world to throw. Not once was he knocked down to the ground. You can’t give a great QB time to throw with those weapons, that just spells disaster.
Onto the Patriots offense, I thought they would score a lot more than 16 points in this one. One mistake I made was discounting Denver’s run defense. The ground game was ineffective until the Broncos dared the offense to run the ball in the 4th quarter.
With the running game being ineffective, Denver started applying pressure to Tom Brady and they got to him way too frequently. I’m not saying Brady had no chance to make plays but he didn’t have a lot of time to throw the ball.
Brady did not have his best game in this one. He missed some open throws for sure. He was out-played by Manning and that’s tough for me to admit. There were a few chances for big plays early in the game but TB12 just didn’t make the throws. The Patriots came into this game as underdogs and there was no margin for error if they wanted to win. Unfortunately too many errors were made.
The offensive play-calling made it seem as if Josh McDaniels had already accepted Cleveland’s head coaching job. On the first two 3rd downs of the game, the calls were to throw the ball to Austin Collie and then to Matthew Slater deep down field. Those are head-scratchers, it seemed like they were trying to be to cute there. Also, a running play on the two point conversion was iffy in my mind too. At that point, keep the ball in Brady’s hand.
The one call I didn’t mind was going for it on 4th and 3 in the 3rd quarter. I know they would’ve need a field goal eventually but 3 points seemed like nothing with the way the Broncos offense was going. They need touchdowns, not field goals.
I can’t help but think what this game would’ve been like if the Patriots had better weapons at receiver. The game is most likely played at Gillette Stadium for one. And that Denver defense could have been had with more talent. Even just a healthy Gronkowski could have made a big difference. I think everyone had flashbacks to 2006 when Brady was throwing to Reche Caldwell, Doug Gabriel and Jabar Gaffney. I thought that would be the last time that Brady would have such little help around him. Austin Collie and Hooman aren’t going to cut it.
And how about Wes Welker’s replacement? Danny Amendola – 0 catches, 1 drop, 0 difference in the game. He’s an easy target, I know.
The injuries were too much for the Patriots to overcome and it looks as if Talib’s injury was the last straw. If only he was healthy for either AFC Championship game in the past 2 seasons. Without him, opposing offenses just feast.
You can’t really look at this season as a disappointment, at least not in my eyes. The Patriots made it the final four, suffered many blows along the way, and lost to a team with the best offense in the history of the NFL. Too much was stacked up against them and they just didn’t make enough plays. I wonder if we’ll see an offensive overhaul in the offseason like the one that got us Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and Donte Stallworth.