Being outgained on the ground 167-4 in the first quarter, the most rushing yards a Bill Belichick coached defense has ever allowed in New England, one would have thought the Patriots were in for a long day against Tim Tebow and the Broncos. That wasn’t the case, as the Patriots rebounded and only allowed 85 rushing yards over the final three quarters in their convincing 41-23 win.
Following the game Jerod Mayo told reporters essentially that the team scrapped their game plan after the first quarter, and then Matt Patricia, who is basically the defense coordinator, schemed on the fly. It apparently worked as the Patriots got things together and played one of their better overall games of the season.
This was a good sign for the Patriots as they get closer to the playoffs that they were able to make adjustments on the fly and make them work. The first quarter was very bad. Outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich looked hideous on multiple plays, giving up containment and then failing to wrap up Tebow, which led to the Broncos first touchdown. He wasn’t the only one missing tackles, it was the whole team.
The Patriots even showed some sign of a pass rush. They got to Tebow a good amount of times, sacking him four times. The defensive line did lose one of the best pass rushers in Andre Carter to a leg injury. Rumors after the game have him having surgery and being out for the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see what they do with Carter’s absence. Could they play more 3-4? Could they bring in a player similar to the Patriots system like Tully Banta-Cain? Could they just have Brandon Deadrick see more of an increased role? That decision will likely come this week.
Overall, the defense played pretty well aside from the first three drives. They also played without their starting safety Patrick Chung, who hasn’t played in five weeks, and also without starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes. The defense still hasn’t faced a legitimate quarterback since Eli Manning, and won’t until the playoffs so it remains to be seen just how good the defense is and if they can win a game, but Sunday’s performance might have shown that maybe they are a little better than we thought. We shall see.