Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (34) runs the ball against Denver Broncos outside linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots defeated the Denver Broncos 34-31. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
In what ended up being possibly one of Tom Brady’s greatest regular season wins, the New England Patriots came back from a 24 point halftime deficit (a team record), to beat the Broncos by a score of 34-31, in overtime. This wasn’t an entirely perfect game played by New England, as anytime you go down 24 at the half, you probably aren’t playing very well. But the second half was a near annihilation of the Broncos, which provided us with a huge amount of optimism going forward.
1. Offense Can Overcome Adversity, Dominate Games
With all of his weapons finally healthy, Tom Brady was expected to light up this Denver defense in last night’s contest. However in the first half, his unit was useless, getting shut out, and turning the football over three times. They were down 24, and things looked bleak concerning the final outcome of the game. But somehow, they came out in the second half, and tore up the Broncos defense. They went off for 34 second half points, and ended up finishing the game with 440 total yards. Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Rob Gronkowski, and Shane Vereen carried the passing game, continually getting open against man coverage, providing Brady with easy targets to throw to. The offensive line had its struggles, especially Nate Solder, as Von Miller beat him for two sacks. But this group overcame all of it, and went on to capture one of the biggest regular season wins in recent memory.
2. Injuries Really Affecting Run Defense
The Broncos ran for an incredible 280 yards in this game, most of which coming from Knowshon Moreno. Being without Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and Jerod Mayo has hurt this group all season long, but this game was an absolute debacle in the rushing department. Chris Jones and Joe Vellano got pushed back all night long, often not getting a hand on the rusher until he was a good eight yards downfield. Brandon Spikes played a decent game, but his partner, Dont’a Hightower, struggled mightily, and eventually got replaced by Dane Fletcher. New England managed to come up with the win in spite of this horrid run defense, but come playoff time they may not be as lucky, and this unit will have to fix its problems in a hurry.
3. Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen Shine
Stevan Ridley is easily the Patriots most talented back. However he has developed a fumbling problem which has led to him getting benched at multiple junctures throughout his career. Ridley was benched early in the first quarter of last night’s tilt, getting replaced by the big man, LeGarrette Blount. But Blount quickly found himself right next Ridley, after he fumbled the ball shortly after entering the game. This then forced the Pats to go to forgotten man Brandon Bolden for the rest of the game, and he stepped up in a big way. Bolden ran the ball 13 times for 58 yards, including a key touchdown midway through the Patriots dominant third quarter. But most importantly, he held onto the football, and this may result in him receiving more carries as the season continues. Shane Vereen was once again extremely productive in the receiving game, catching eight balls for 60 yards. He seems to be re-establishing himself as Brady’s security blanket in key situations, and I expect his production to increase, the longer he is back in the flow of the game.
4. Brady Still Has That Magic
After Tom Brady’s incredible last second comeback against the New Orleans Saints, it feels like we shouldn’t gush over his ridiculous “clutch” skills a few weeks later. But he has forced our hand once again, as he engineered an amazing second half comeback, which culminated in an exciting overtime finish. Brady stared the 24 point deficit in the face, and calmly marched his team down the field in a machine-like fashion, as he nearly erased the Broncos lead in one quarter. Brady dissected Denver’s defense throughout the entire second half, finishing the game with 344 passing yards, and three touchdowns. He showed us once again that when you are in need of a score, or a big comeback, there is nobody better than number 12.