New England Patriots Trounce the Denver Broncos 43 to 21


Nov 2, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) reacts after a play against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 43-21. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos came to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Patriots on a day that the home team chose to bring back and celebrate at halftime the tenth anniversary of the team’s third Super Bowl victory in four years. Then, the Patriots turned back the clock as the 2014 team channelled those championship defenses from a decade prior as head coach Bill Belichick showed why he has earned the title of “genius” as he once again did to Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning what no other has consistently done in his career.


With the morning featuring snow, wind, and cold temperatures it looked like a winter day on a Halloween weekend. However, the weather cooperated and by kickoff it was just cool temperatures and a gusting wind to compete with for the players on the field. The Patriots excelled in all three phases of the game as their defense threw multiple looks and coverages at Manning all game long, the special teams unit made multiple big plays, and the offense moved the ball downfield at will against the revamped Denver defense.


Despite neither team consistently running the ball, the play-action remained the weapon of choice for both offenses. Quarterback Tom Brady attacked the Denver defense with his group of weapons as running back Shane Vereen, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell were all targeted in the passing game at least ten time each. This quartet of playmakers have earned Brady’s trust and are the first line on offense of attacking opposing defenses.


Brady found Gronkowski and Edelman nine times each in the passing game while LaFell pulled in six passes. Vereen added five catches and even Danny Amendola made an impact with two huge drive-extending receptions in the second half. While the running game did not contribute much on the stat sheet gaining just 66 yards on 25 rushes, the Patriots went to Vereen and Jonas Gray again and again to keep setting up the play-action passing attack.


Nov 2, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich (50) returns an interception against the Denver Broncos during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, the Patriots deep secondary showed why they are a top passing defense. While Peyton Manning topped 400 yards passing, he was often holding the ball in the pocket longer than he desired and forced to check-down more often than he would prefer. For the game, Manning targeted his running backs 15 of his 57 pass attempts. Add in five passes to backup tight end Jacob Tamme and eight passes to fourth-option Wes Welker and it was clear the Patriots’ cornerbacks and safeties did a great job of keeping the ball away from primary targets Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Demaryius Thomas.


Physical was the word to describe the Patriots defense on Sunday. Wide receivers Welker, Sanders, and Thomas all spent time on the sidelines after being beat-up by the Patriots defense. A big hit by Devin McCourty on Welker knocked him from the game and the ball up into the air for an interception for Brandon Browner early in the second half. Again-and-again the Broncos fought for yards through the air and over-and-over the Patriots defense stepped up as they limited the Broncos offense to just three touchdowns as the Broncos never got closer than 13 points as the Patriots offense and defense were just too much for the Broncos.


Both teams were uncharacteristically conservative in the early going as they traded punts and both tried to figure out the wind down on the field.The Patriots struck first with a field goal aided by Denver’s special teams mistake as a 15-yard interference penalty by Kayvon Webster to set up the Patriots in Denver territory. The Patriots failed to convert a first down, but kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 49-yard field goal to put New England on top 3 to 0.


On the next drive the Broncos abandoned the running game and went to work through the air as the no-huddle shotgun attack caught the Patriots defense on their heels. Peyton Manning and Denver drove into the red zone and seemed to stall on third-and-ten from the 13 yard line, but a questionable pass interference penalty on Patriots’ cornerback Brandon Browner set-up the Broncos at the one yard line and running back Ronnie Hillman punched it in for an early 7-3 lead.


After the Patriots took over and quarterback Tom Brady drove the team downfield into Denver territory, they again stalled on offense and added a field goal to make it a 7 to 6 game. However, that pass interference penalty seemed to ignite the Patriots on defense. On the next series the New England defense made a huge play to swing momentum. Dropping defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich dropped into a deep zone and as Manning tried to hit Demaryius Thomas down the right sideline the ball hit Ninkovich between the numbers. Manning clearly never saw Ninkovich drop deep into coverage and five plays later Brady found Julian Edelman in the end zone and the Patriots were up 13 to 7 with a lead they would not relinquish.


After the revamped secondary and the defense stopped Denver again, it was again the New England special teams stepping up big as Edelman returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown and a 20-7 lead. The defense again allowed Denver to move downfield mixing pressure, three-man rushes, two-deep zones, and man-to-man coverage with one-deep safety as the Patriots threw every trick in the playbook at Manning. Two big stops by cornerback Kyle Arrington (who seemingly disappeared from the defense the past two weeks) set-up a 41-yard field goal by rookie kicker Brandon McManus. It hit the upright and the Patriots took over.


The missed field goal loomed large in the minds of Denver as after the Patriots punted back to the Broncos, Manning drove the Broncos down to the New England 34 yard-line. On fourth-and-six the Broncos decided against a field goal and went for the first down. Newly acquired linebacker Akeem Ayers blasted through the Denver offensive line and sacked Manning for a nine yard loss setting up the Patriots two-minute offense before the half with great field position.


Brady drove New England downfield methodically and converted a huge second-and-twenty-one to Edelman for 26 yards after an intentional grounding penalty as Denver’s All-Pro linebacker Von Miller brought some heat off the edge. After Edelman juggled a potential touchdown in the end zone that was overturned by review, it was made a moot point as Brady found Shane Vereen to make it 27 to 7 at halftime.