In what was a tough first quarter for the Patriots, namely for the defense, but the team hung tough and pulled away from the Broncos to win by 18 points. Tim Tebow and the Broncos offense couldn’t overcome what was a disastrous, turnover-filled second quarter, when Denver fumbled twice and then muffed a punt in the waning seconds of the half. Denver led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter and put up 218 yards of offense, but were down 27-16 by the end of the second quarter.
Once Tom Brady was able to get the Patriots out in front, the pressure was too much for the Broncos’ ball-control offense. Tim Tebow was off-target on several throws and ended the game completing only 50% of his throws. He did run effectively, gaining 98 yards on 12 attempts, including 2 touchdowns.
Tom Brady put on another masterpiece, completing 23 of 34 passes for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Broncos seemed to put a lot of emphasis on stopping Rob Gronkowski, who had 4 catches on 5 targets for 54 yards. Enter the “other” tight end, Aaron Hernandez, Tim Tebow’s former teammate at Florida, who caught 9 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Hernandez also had a 16-yard running play. With Deion Branch out, there was a Chad Ochocinco sighting. Ocho caught 1 pass for 33 yards and a touchdown on the Patriots’ first offensive possession.
Tim Tebow, as mentioned earlier, only completed 50% of his passes, but did gain 194 yards through the air. The Patriots’ running defense, its supposed strength, was gashed for 252 yards on 31 carries, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. 182 of those yards came in the first half of the game. While the defense was getting gashed, it was able to force turnovers, which is a microcosm of their play this season. The extra possessions for the offense were enough to force the Broncos to throw more, not Tebow’s strength, and power the Patriots to victory.
One story to monitor as the week progresses is the status of DE Andre Carter. Carter was injured late in the first quarter, suffering what looked like a left knee injury, and was carted off the field. He did not return to the game. In his place, Mark Anderson was able to sack Tebow twice and force and recover a fumble. Next up for the Pats are the Miami Dolphins at home on Christmas Eve (Saturday).