NFL.com says the Broncos only fumbled the ball four times, but I think I'm going to have to disagree with that one. I distinctly remember a botched snap on an extra point, two fumbles by Quan Cosby, two fumbles by Tim Tebow, and a fumble by Lance Ball.
Considering three of those fumbles happened on the plus side of the field for Tom Brady and the Patriots, it's not impossible to figure out why the Denver Broncos lost 41-23 to New England on Sunday.
I think it's important to not dwell on the past, but it's important to realize that the Broncos were absolutely rolling against New England offensively prior to the second quarter debacle, something that has plagued the Broncos all season long.
According to the folks at CBS, the Broncos have the worst point differential in the second quarter this season, and the Pats took us 20-3 in that infamous second quarter.
The Patriots have so many weapons offensively that the Broncos were not able to deliver in blitz packages they have used a majority of the season. It was mostly three or four man rushes from what I can remember, and Tom Brady knit me and the rest of my family a couple of nice Christmas sweaters while he tore apart a secondary that was seriously missing the presence of Brian Dawkins.
That being said, I think the Broncos showed that they can--at times--bring solid pressure with a four man front, and not every team is going to have the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, etc. who tore the Broncos apart on short routes, one player going to the inside, one player getting outside.
One thing the Broncos limited the Patriots from doing--somewhat--was stretching the pass game up the seam, though they did hit on a couple of beautiful long passes to Ochocinco and Welker, one that was a touchdown, and another that was less than a foot away from being a touchdown.
The defense didn't play a great game yesterday, giving up way more third downs than it seemed we have given up all season long. Typically, when the Broncos get a team into a third down situation, they are able to finish the deal and get off the field, but Tom Brady proved to be simply too good.
Offensively, I definitely think the Broncos are capable of keeping pace with some of the best teams in the league, especially teams that play defense like New England. The problem Sunday was that Denver just couldn't hold on to the ball. Lance Ball's fumble should have never happened, and while I think the Broncos running the zone-read/power option out of the gun is an effective offense, I don't think you should be running it constantly against the worst pass defense in the NFL.
Tebow's play-action and slant to Demaryius Thomas was a golden play all day long, and Denver was going to try an option to Eddie Royal instead of maybe a screen play to Royal. I am all on board for that, but you have to block the linemen in front of you. Either a poorly designed play or pitiful blocking up front caused Tim Tebow's first fumble, where he wasn't holding the ball with two hands getting ready to pitch to Eddie Royal on the option.
I really feel for Quan Cosby for fumbling twice, because that is the kind of thing that can get you cut from a team.
Still, the Broncos' offense--specifically the run game--was unstoppable until Willis McGahee got hurt--again. McGahee finished his day with only seven carries, but was able to get 70 yards.
I love the potential this offense has going forward as Tim Tebow continues to develop as a passer, because we are finally seeing him step up in the pocket and make throws. Sure, they might not be pretty, but they get to the right spot and they get there on time, and we shouldn't really care about anything else unless it becomes a problem, which it hasn't.
One thing that you notice about Tebow in the passing game is his ability to make smart decisions already. He is not afraid to pretty much throw a ball in the dirt or throw it a mile over a receiver's head if he thinks the ball has a chance of being picked off. He doesn't throw interceptions, and I have to give him credit for that.
Where Tebow has really impressed me is his ability to keep his eyes down the field. He is always scanning, always watching for someone to get open even when he knows he is scrambling.
His first touchdown run--a designed running play--was, in my opinion, the best run of his football career. Tebow was essentially sacked by Rob Ninkovich and managed to somehow get out of it and beat a few other defenders to the end zone.
Predictably, the way the Broncos were running the ball opened up the passing game, and I think at one point, Tebow was 5 of 6 passing for 80 yards or so, and things were really clicking. That's when the Lance Ball fumble happened, McGahee was hurt, and things really turned around for the Broncos, not in a good way.
I think there is still a lot of positive to take from this game, and this style of play is important this time of year, the passing game is pretty much a bonus at this point. I don't think the Broncos are going to fumble the ball six times next week, so I predict a much better flow for the Buffalo game, and sometimes this kind of loss is what a team needs to re-gain focus. Remember Tebow's speech against the Ole Miss game?
The last time the Broncos allowed 40-plus points and lost, they wound up winning six in a row. If that pattern repeats itself, the Broncos will win the Super Bowl, which would be exactly six games from right now.
Here's to hoping that specific history repeats itself.