New England Patriots at Denver Broncos: Breaking Down the Matchups
By Hal Bent
New England Patriots Offense vs Denver Broncos Defense:
The Patriots have missed the dimension that tight end Rob Gronkowski brings to their offense. However, credit offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and quarterback Tom Brady for not skipping a beat against the top-rated defense in the NFL last week.
Beating the lowly Los Angeles Rams without Gronkowski was a good warmup for the offense: They scored 26 points, leaned on running back LeGarrette Blount, and they piled up over 400 yards in an easy win. Last week against Baltimore it was the Brady show as he passed for over 400 yards and picked apart an elite defense.
This week it is another elite defense that the Patriots must face on the road in Denver. The Broncos have yet to allow an opponent to pile up 400 total yards of offense in 2016. The Broncos must be ecstatic that the game is not in prime time as they are 2-3 in night games beating just the Panthers on Thursday night in week one and the over-matched Texans on Monday night in week seven.
Denver lost a few key players on defense from last year but the biggest injury was defensive tackle Vance Walker. He was on his way to being a breakout performer before tearing his ACL in training camp and spending 2016 on injured reserve. That hole in the middle has been evident as teams have rushed for 1,654 yards in 13 games and 4.2 yards per rush.
Sylvester Williams is a solid nose tackle in the middle but he and journeyman interior defensive tackle Jared Crick are scaring no one. Derek Wolfe is his usual disruptive self for Denver, but with Williams and Crick doing little to slow opposing running backs and generating little pressure, the dominant defense has shown some attrition.