Week 12 didn’t work out the way we planned at all. The Broncos and Patriots lived up to the billing, boy did it ever, but a Big game, the weather and a trend of bad Joo-Joo in Overtime did the Broncos in once again. Denver needed a near-perfect performance in order to claim a rare Road victory in New England and that didn’t happen, as they fell to the Patriots 31-34 in Overtime.
One cannot pinpoint a single instance during this game as to why the Broncos couldn’t prevail. Sure, the Turnover in Overtime was a big one, but it wasn’t the only one. Denver was outcoached in this game, there were mental lapses and physical lapses too.
The Broncos started off quick (for a change) and ended up with a 24-0 lead in the 1st half due to some aggressive Defensive play. Wesley Woodyard Forced a Fumble by that Von Miller scooped up and ran 60-yards for a Touchdown. Then, Von strip Sacks Tom Brady and Terrance Knighton, he of the Pot Roast, rumbled off a 13-yard return to set up Knowshon Moreno’s 9th rushing Touchdown of the season. Then, on the Patriots 3rd possession, Duke Ihenacho laid a big hit on LeGarrette Blount, dislodging the ball and recovered by Danny Trevathan. The Broncos got a Matt Prater Field Goal out of that Turnover and then finished there 1st half scoring spree with 6 minutes left in the 2nd Quarter when Peyton Manning connected with Jacob Tamme for a 10-yard Touchdown reception. That was the Good.
Actually, there was more good, but I will save that in the soliloquy.
After halftime, the tables turned. Bill Belichick made some adjustments and the Broncos Defensive situation got hurt from injuries. Denver was forced into more Zone coverage due to a shoulder injury to Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie on the last play of the 1st half. D R-C has been the best coverage defender for the Broncos this season. With him out, and the Broncos down two Safeties (Rahim Moore’s injury last week and Duke Ihenacho getting hurt as well), the Defense’s weakness was exposed. Three of their 4 starting Defensive Backs were out (Champ, Rahim and D R-C). Not only that, but the Patriots were able to double team Von Miller with Kevin Vickerson separating his Hip. Up til then, both players were having outstanding days. Von finished with a very good game, but was nullified during crunch time.
As I stated in the Inside The Numbers post for the game, this contest could go either way. The Broncos ran the ball very effectively, which I expected. I saw this as a good thing. The playoffs, not to mention this year’s Super Bowl normally occur in Winter conditions and to win the big games in the playoffs, teams who can run are generally the ones that go further. New England’s starting Defensive Tackles Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are on Injured Reserve. If Wilfork is in the game, teams simply must go around him as he is the best in the league hands down at stuffing the middle. So Knowshon Moreno was able to run for 224 yards behind solid blocking by Louis Vasquez and Manny Ramirez. Yes, that Manny Ramirez. The Broncos replacement Center not only had his best game of the season, he graded out as the best Center in the league for Week 12 according to Pro Football Focus. For that matter, PFF has him as having the 2nd best season behind only Chris Myers of the Houston Texans. Way to step it up Manny!
The Broncos were getting 6-7 yards each play out of the running game, so why stop? I know our team is a passing team and one doesn’t simply ignore the talents of a guy with a $20 Million salary, but you also keep during what works until the opponent stops it. The old adage of “If it works, don’t fix it” applies here.
The fact is, when the Broncos decided to throw a few passes just to mix things up, the primary “Big 3” Receivers either couldn’t play Bump and run or simply dropped the ball. Sure, the wind played a factor into some of the throws, but drops killed more drives than the wind.
So the New England Patriots put up 31 unanswered points before the Broncos respond with a drive that tied the score. The game goes to Overtime and Bill Belichick wins the toss and takes the wind instead of the ball. This was a brilliant move as his team is at Home, his Defense has effectively all but neutralized the Bronco Offense and all he needs at that point is a Field Goal. By putting the wind in his Kicker’s favor, all he needs is one stop for a very good chance to win the game. Talk about Home field advantage.
To explain further, the new Overtime rules require the team receiving the first possession in OT to score a Touchdown to end the game. If that team kicks a Field Goal in that first possession, the opposing team gets one possession to kick a tying Field Goal or score a Touchdown to win outright. If both teams make their Field Goals and the game remains tied, then the game goes to sudden death and the first team to score wins. A little crazy yes, but it lets the teams decide the game a little more fairly than simply winning a coin toss.
After that, we all know what happened, the Bronco Offense stalled when Eric Decker was flagged for throwing an illegal pick on a completion to Jacob Tamme and then Demaryius Thomas couldn’t make a catch while being hounded by Aqib Talib. The two teams traded punts twice, but on the second punt by New England, Wes Welker, who was out there to make the catch, decided too late to call off his blockers. Tony Carter tried to avoid the ball, but wasn’t looking for it. He had his eye on the guy he was going to block for the return. The ball dropped close to him and, as footballs often do because of their shape, bounced and came in contact with him. The Patriots fell on the ball and shortly kicked the game winning Field Goal.
And the state of Colorado was demoralized.
Before I wrap this up, I’d like to point out a few good things that have happened.
Von Miller’s 60-yd fumble recovery TD, Broncos now have six 60+yd TDs this year (2 offense, 2 defense, 2 special teams).
Von also posted his 10th career Forced Fumble on a Sack, leading to turnover. That ranks 4th in the NFL in Forced Fumbles since 2011.
Knowshon Moreno has posted his 5th career 100-yard rushing game, tying Gaston Green for 11th most in team history.
Moreno also scored a career-high 9th Rushing TD and also a career-high 10th for the season.
Peyton Manning reached the 35-TD pass mark for the 3rd time in his career, tying Favre and Brady for most all-time.
Tight End Jacob Tamme had a good game as well. Virgil Green struggled and was out of position, actually running into the Running Back on three separate occasions.
The Broncos are now 9-2, and hold the tiebreaker for the AFC West Division lead. I think my biggest concern is because of the mental breakdowns in the last two big games (this one and the Ravens game last year), which team will show up for the “Sea of Red” at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday in what is currently the biggest game of the season?
The odds for Week 13’s contest against the Chiefs in Kansas City have opened with the Broncos favored by 4 points. Two weeks ago, Denver was favored by 8. Personally, Arrowhead is a very tough place for the Broncos and the weather isn’t getting any warmer.
– Kaptain Kirk