If I had to describe the Broncos 41-23 loss to the Patriots in one word, that word would be "ugly". The sad part is that it didn't have to be that way. The Broncos got off to an abnormally quick start and looked like they were ready to shoot it out with Tom Brady for 60 minutes. Unfortunately, untimely penalties and ugly turnovers told the story in this game. Some people are saying this loss isn't that big of a deal because Oakland lost so Denver remains 1st in the division. I am not one of those people. If Denver would have played a more disciplined game, I think they could have beaten Tom Brady and the Patriots. But "could have" is a phrase for losers and on Sunday, the Broncos were anything but winners. Let's jump into the studs and duds.
Despite the fact that the Broncos lost by 3 scores, I thought Tebow had one of his best games as a passer against the Patriots. Sure, the fact that the Patriots' D ranks at the bottom of the league played a factor, but Tebow still threw the ball quite well on Sunday. He finished the day going 11 of 22 for 191 yards with 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. However, he also added 12 carries for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. His performance was marred a bit by the fumble he lost, but all in all, Tebow played a good game against the Patriots.
Watching Demaryius play is kind of like being in love. Sometimes you just want to hug him and tell him how much you love him. Other times, you want to punch him in the face for doing something stupid (like drop 4 passes). On Sunday, I wanted to hug him and he deserved one after putting in a nice performance against the Patriots. He ended the day with 7 receptions for 116 yards. On the year, he has 25 receptions for 441 yards and 4 touchdowns. More importantly, in the last 3 games, Demayrius has caught 18 passes for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. So, in other words, Demaryius has caught 72 percent of his passes for 76 percent of his yards in the last 3 games. That shows growth on his part and a developing chemistry between him and Tim Tebow. That can only mean good things heading into the final 2 weeks of the season.
Before the Broncos were getting buried and were forced to pass the ball to keep up with the Patriots, the Broncos OL was run blocking great. In fact, the OL helped the Broncos finish the day with 252 yards rushing. As I said previously, Tebow accounted for 93 of those yards while Willis McGahee chipped in 70 yards on 7 carries, Lance Ball had 64 yards on 11 carries and Jeremiah Johnson had 1 run for 25 yards. Of all the runners, McGahee is definitely the best. He is quick to the hole and has great vision. The problem is he suffered yet another injury and was forced to be taken out. Ball performed decently, but he's definitely no McGahee.
P.S. Dear John Fox, I want to see more Jeremiah Johnson.
I don't think anybody really noticed how good of a job Harris did on Sunday. Matching up pretty exclusively with Wes Welker, Harris limited Tom Brady's favorite target to just 4 catches for 41 yards. For a guy who was an undrafted free agent, that's pretty damn impressive. Harris has proven time and time again that he is for real. I'm particularly impressed with how many plays he makes in the running game. I wouldn't be surprised to see Harris as the #2 cornerback in the near future.
Broderick Bunkley and Marcus Thomas
I continue to be impressed with Denver's two big Defensive Tackles. Did you know that Marcus Thomas finished the day tied for the most tackles with 9? That's right. Marcus Thomas, the 300+ pound DT had 9 tackles today. Impressive stuff. Bunkley had a nice outing as well getting 4 tackles on the afternoon. Xanders might want to start talking to Bunkley's and Thomas' agents. They need to be resigned.
Thank you X2.
This is the reason the Broncos lost. Plain and simple. It started with a Lance Ball fumble where he was just careless and didn't hold onto the ball with both hands as he was running. The second fumble was a Tim Tebow fumble where they ran the option, the defender read it perfectly and stripped the ball from Tebow. The last fumble was an awful fumble by Quan Cosby (who I'll talk more about in just a second) on a punt return. As Fox said after the game, you can't go minus 3 in turnover difference and beat a team like the Patriots. It's just not going to happen.
I went back and forth trying to decide whether I felt Cosby should get cut for his awful game against the Patriots. After some deliberation, the answer is yes. He should be cut. The truth is that he has been an above average punt return man for the Broncos this year. On Sunday, he was the worst punt returner in the NFL. He fumbled two returns and lost one of them. Does 1 terrible game justify cutting the guy? Normally, no. However, the problem is that the Broncos signed Quan Cosby for the sole purpose of returning punts. He's a returner, not a wide receiver. When your job is to solely return punts, you can't make huge mistakes like he made on Sunday. To make things worse, the Broncos have a more talented returner in Eddie Royal. With Royal failing to make any impact as a WR, Denver should just cut Cosby, put Royal as the permanent returner and sign a WR that might be able to make a difference.
Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore
Remember on draft day 2011 when everyone thought the Broncos had just drafted their starting safeties for the next decade? Fast forward 14 games and things aren't so sure. Quinton Carter played poor. He was the one to blame on the Chad Ochocinco touchdown as he bit on an underneath route when Andre Goodman acted like he had help over the top. On top of that, Carter had a poor tackling day. Speaking of poor tackling, Rahim Moore needs to shape up. The guy can't tackle for crap. I don't know if he needs to get stronger or work on fundamentals, but he's not playing like a 2nd round pick right now. We can only hope they improve with a full off season.
For as good as the Broncos OL was run blocking, they were equally as bad in pass protection. They gave up 4 sacks to a Patriot team that lost its best pass rusher to injury during the game. Sure, Tebow ran into a couple of those sacks, but he was getting pressured a lot and is it just me or did the Broncos OL seem to give up when Tebow was scrambling around in the backfield.
It feels weird putting him in the Dud section. I think this is the first time it's happened all year. Why is he here? Well, he recorded a whopping 1 tackle on the day and was held in check by Nate Solder all day. I'm not worried though. We've seen enough from Von to know he's going to be a special talent. Everyone has an off day.
John Fox and Mike McCoy
John Fox and Mike McCoy need to be called out for his awful clock management skills. They are both partly to blame for that Quan Cosby fumble that cost the Broncos 3 points before halftime. Why did the Broncos call 2 passes and a run on 3rd and long? After Tebow had his first incompletion, they should have ran on 2nd down which would have left the Patriots with little to no time to make anything happen. Also, Fox opted to kick the field goal on a 4th in 1 deep inside Denver territory. Questionable call to say the least. If the Broncos want to win a championship in the near future, Fox and McCoy are going to have to make better decisions.
This was just terrible. There were a couple really ugly penalties on the Broncos. The one that pissed me off the most was the Robert Ayers penalty where the Patriots were backed up to their own goal line facing a 3rd and long. Denver stopped them short which would have gave the Broncos great field position. Unfortunately, Ayers was flagged with a "hands to the face" penalty and gave New England an automatic first down. The team finished with 7 penalties for 39 yards.
By the way, remember that break out year Robert Ayers was supposed to have?
Speaking of penalties...
There were some VERY questionable calls from Mike Carey and his crew. I won't say that the referees favored the Patriots, but the refs always seem to be ready to grab their flags for Tom Brady led teams.
With Allen in the Duds list, that makes the 3 top decision makers for Denver all Duds. I won't be too hard on Allen because in his defense, every team in the league is going to have trouble defending Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez not to mention the running backs who come out of the backfield. Still, Allen made some curious blitz calls. Others worked (Safety blitz from Carter), others failed miserably (Sell out blitz that Brady read perfectly and hit Gronkowski for a big game).
He shaved for the first time in months this week. I blame him entirely for this loss.
Well folks, that's all I have for you today. While Sunday was certainly a downer, the Broncos are still a game ahead of the Raiders for 1st place in the AFC West. They must get ready for a road trip to Buffalo on Saturday night. It's a very important game because with a win, the Broncos will all but knock San Diego out of the conversation for post season play. With the way San Diego beat the Ravens, the sooner the Broncos can eliminate them, the better. Until next time, MHR.