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Denver 17 - New England 7 - Game in Review

First, Happy Birthday to me.  Too old for it to matter the age, but fun nonetheless.  Good thing for us I received my present early with the Broncos heading to New England and continuing their ownage of Billy Boy, Brady, and the rest of the Patriots.  Let's take a look at what my keys to victory were and how each of those things turned out -

Trend Setters -- Tom Brady has already had a Hall of Fame career and has done everything any quarterback could ever want to do already.  But with all the success, Brady has just a 1-4 record agains the Broncos.  He has 8 TD's and 7 INT's and who could forget the big pick he threw to Champ Bailey in the playoffs last season.  The Broncos defensive strategy in most games against Brady was to send alot of pressure, forcing Brady into making quick decisions.  That being said, the Broncos are trying to hedge away from that style of defense, favoring a 4 man rush.  The problem with that against Brady is he'll pick a defense apart if he has time to sit and be patient.  Denver is going to need to get pressure on Brady, even if they are forced to revert to their old style to do so.

For the most part Denver stayed in that 4 man rush and rarely, if ever, brought extra pressure.  Brady did have a big night throwing, and at times had all night to scour the field.  Fortunitely for the Broncos the talent base on the outside for New England has deteriorated.  Even with time, Brady looked confused at times and several times threw the ball out of bounds.  I mentioned it in the game thread and will say it again, there isn't much fire in Brady, and he is the emotional leader of that offense.  The Broncos were also able to control the run, and against this year's version of the Patriots that is going to be the key to beat them.

Mine Are Better Than Yours -- The NFL is the ultimate copy-cat league, and the Broncos and Patriots are no exception.  After the success Denver exhibited with two feaured backs last season, the Patriots are doing it this year, with Corey Dillon and rookie Laurence Maroney sharing the duties.  The Broncos have their own version of the tandem backs, with Tatum Bell and Mike Bell.  Whichever tandem can be most effective and win the battle will go a long way towards deciding the winner.  Both teams are going to look to establish the run and the team that is successful will control the tempo.

This battle never really took off for either side.  Tatum Bell was the featured back and was tough and dependable throughout the game.  I can remember at  least 4 occassions that Bell was a shoestring away from breaking a long one and it really looks like the coaching staff has settled on Tatum to be "The Man".  For me, the offense always seems to run smoother when it's one guy, and I said as much last week.  For New England, Corey Dillon was injured early on and didn't return.  As it was, Bell and the Broncos dominated the running battle, with the Pats averaging only 2.4 yards a carry.  Since the Patriots were forced into a lot of passing sitauations the Broncos were able to key on the pass, thus not allowing the Patriots to get into a rhythem.

Bell ran well against the Patriots Sunday Night

Time For More Than Lip Service -- Mike Shanahon has been called an offensive mastermind.  Bill Belichick a defensive genious.  This season, however, both coaches have hasd their struggles with the supposed strengths of their teams.  The Broncos have yet to really crank it up offensively, socring only 1 TD so far.  As for the Pats, their defense has tackled poorly and given up too many big plays.  The coach that can get his side of the ball rollin the soonest will have a big edge over the other.  It is scary to me that Shanny has to scale down his playbook for a ten year vet, so to say I am slightly less than optimistic about our offense would be an understatement.

Advantage Broncos, big-time.  The offense looked good all-night, and I credit the Patriots D for at least keeping it close.  When it counted, however, the Patriots gave up several big plays to either keep drives alive(which kept the clock running), or allow the Broncos to put points on the board.  Both TD's were simply a case of Denver wanting it more and the poor tackling by Pats' DB's reared it's ugly head again.  Chalk this one up to the Mastermind, as his dominance of Belichick continues.
Well Isn't That Special? -- The Patriots lost their security blanket this off-season when Adam Vinatieri left for Indianapolis.  The Pats have handed the place-kicking duties to a rookie, Stephen Gostkowski, and there have already been some tense moments in Bean Town.  How Gostkowski fares in a close game could ultimately decide the Pats success this season and I would be very interested to see how he handled a big kick at a big moment.  For teh Broncos, we still have our "Old Reliable" in Jason Elam, who won last week's game against the Chiefs with a 39-yard field goal.  This is one part of tonite's game that I actually feel pretty confident in and would welcome a game that came down to the kickers.

This might have been the key moment in the game.  With Denver leading 3-0 in the 2nd Quarter, the Patriots drove down the field and were able to get into position for a game-tying FG.  In past years,  with Adam Vinatieri, you would chalk up the 3 points, game tied, both teams are back to square one.  The Patriots now have a rookie kicker, and for the straight game Stephen Gostkowski had a FG attempt blocked.  The Broncos took over possession, went down the field, and scored their first TD, on the way to a 10-0 halftime lead.  Sure, kickers are taken for granted, but when you have a guy that might someday kick field goals in the Hall of Fame it might be a good idea to hang on to him.