Broncos 31, Patriots 34: Studs and Duds

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the positives and negatives from Denver's 31-34 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday night.

Studs

Knowshon Moreno. On a night so cold that every running back, regardless of the team, was fumbling, Moreno stepped up huge. Yes, the 224 yards was a ridiculous career high for Moreno. What was even more insane is that he shouldered a 37 carry load, and averaged over 6 yards a carry. The game could have not ended more tragically, but at least Denver fans know that Moreno is ready for the cold. Get healthy Knowshon, fast. - Mr. East

DRC. Do you want to know how studly DRC was? It can be summed up in 1 sentence: 24-0 with DRC, 31-34 without him! Tom Brady couldn't do squat with DRC in the game. He couldn't pass, he couldn't take his time to find an open receiver, and he couldn't score points in the 1st half... Then a Hail Mary that had no chance happened. While some can point out that DRC didn't need to try to intercept it, I counter that with "that's what CB's do!" Going for the pick is so ingrained in their minds that they try for it even when getting an INT doesn't matter. Then again, maybe he takes that pick to the house and it's 31-0 at the half? My point is that when DRC was in the game, the Patriots looked pathetic. When DRC sat out the entire 2nd half, the Patriots looked like the 16-0 Patriots. Without DRC, Tom Brady picked us apart. He passed deep, he passed short, hell, he probably could have lofted up a pass to himself if he wanted to. There was no stout coverage that afforded our front 7 the opportunities they had in the 1st half to sack or cause a fumble. All Brady had to do was say "Hut, ok, where is #36? Oh, there he is... TOUCHDOWN!!!!" 

Even though Knowshon went all beast mode and channeled his inner Adrian Peterson, and Von Miller and Big Vick, and Pot Roast all had amazing games, in the end, their effectiveness hinged on our pass coverage, and without DRC, there were simply too many holes in our coverage. It got so bad that Del Rio decided to go with a weak ass zone coverage (which our secondary is HORRIBLE at), and it cost us. Once we got back into man, Webster just couldn't keep up, and our other CBs like Jammer, Harris, et al, had to be too aggressive and try to cover up too many mistakes to be effective. Mark my words, if we have DRC the whole game, we win by a minimum of 24 points. Get well DRC, our defense hinges on you being the stud that you are! Pay the man, he deserves it!!! - Big Pete

Von Miller. Miller had six solo tackles, two assists on a tackle, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He took his fumble recovery on a 60-yard dash that ended in the Patriots end zone. His forced fumble came on a sack, forcing the Patriots' second turnover and leading to Denver's second touchdown. He had several plays where his speed off the corner forced New England running backs into the center of the field and led to only short gains. -Brian Shrout

Louis Vasquez. The big guard up front opened up many holes and downright dominated in run blocking and pass blocking.  The Denver Broncos as a team put up 280 yards from three different rushers including Knowshon Moreno who rushed 37 times for 224 yards (6.1 yards per carry).  It all started up front and Louis was the biggest reason why. - Bronco Mike

Duds

Demaryius Thomas. If it wasn't passes slamming into his finger tips that he was capable of catching, it was passes that were catchable that he was either out of position for or  not willing to go after. The Broncos receivers as a whole were not fighting to get open and even taking the immense talent that Aqib Talib has into account, this match-up should have been an easy win for Thomas. Demaryius will be compared to Dez Bryant throughout his entire career and that's fair, Bryant was available when Josh McDaniels took Thomas over Bryant in the first round. However, whether it was fighting for a pass interference call instead of the ball or simply not being hard nosed enough to snatch a pass out of the air on a desperate Peyton Manning throw, it becomes obvious that Thomas lacks the killer instinct of Bryant. Yes, Bryant appears to suffer from histrionic induced rage occasionally, but maybe that is just a sign of a good receiver. Thomas got overtaken by a good (not great) cornerback in Talib. For now Thomas doesn't appear to be a guy like Bryant or Brandon Marshall that you can depend on to feed the ball and carry a team on his back in a time of absolute need. - Ian Henson

Peyton Manning. It begins and ends with him.  There was absolutely no rhythm in the offensive passing game.  The Broncos offense had three shots in overtime to march for a game winning score and failed to do so.  While the narrative that Peyton Manning plays poorly in cold weather is lazy group think at best, the team tends to take on the mentality of their leader.  The fire simply wasn't there, and one has to wonder if Peyton's introverted leadership is keeping this team from closing out big games on a consistent basis. - Bronco Mike

Wes Welker. Not only did he drop a few passes, but his punt returning gaffe at the end of overtime led to Tony Carter getting hit with a live ball and NE recovering deep in Denver's territory.  After a couple of field position kneels, the Patriots kicked the game winning chip shot and completed a historic comeback victory.  Welker has history of drops in big games.  Last night was no different.  Had he held on to a third down pass before this series of events, the Broncos could have attempted a game winning 50- yard kick.  Instead he drops it and the Broncos are stuck in no man's land, too long to convert on 4th down and too long to try and kick a FG. - Bronco Mike

Montee Ball and CJ Anderson. The Broncos saw last night what happens when Knowshon Moreno needs to be spelled.   Unfortunately, neither Ball, Anderson or Hillman (inactive) have been able to give the Broncos the change of pace they need when Moreno leaves the field.  While it is understandable for young players to have a learning curve while adapting to a Peyton Manning led offense -- it is simply inexcusable to turnover the ball and stall drives on a consistent basis week in and week out.   If the Broncos want to go anywhere in the playoffs, they need Moreno to be healthy, because the poor and untimely play of the other backs in our stable will not get the job done. - Christopher Hart

Eric Decker. A lot can be said about him catching exactly 1 pass all night. A lot can be said about him being invisible and not playing to make a catch, but instead, playing to get a flag. A lot can be said about him being 6'3" but playing smaller than Trindon Holiday. But last night, the reason why he is a dud in my book is because in Overtime on our first possession, Peyton Manning hits Tamme on 3rd down for what appears to be a few inches short in "no man's land"... what would likely happen? Well, it's a no brainer, the Broncos would have 100% gone for it on 4th down, especially with how Knowshon was playing (pre-injury). Instead of 4th and inches, there is a pass interference call on Decker for blatantly setting a pick on the defense. What should have been a gimme 1st down deep in enemy territory quickly turns into a punt and life breathed back into a New England team that knew we were going to score and put the game away! For a guy playing for a contract, Decker sure isn't making it justifiable for the Broncos to be the team overpaying for his services. - Big Pete

Who are your Studs and Duds from Sunday night? Let us know in the comments - and remember that a "Dud" isn't meant as an insult. It's constructive criticism that rhymes with stud.

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