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Patriots-Broncos Highs & Lows: Off To AFC Championship

By Levan Reid, WBZ-TV Sports
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Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots scores a 7-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Chris Harris #25 of the Denver Broncos during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots scores a 7-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Chris Harris #25 of the Denver Broncos during their AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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FOXBORO (CBS) – WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid breaks down the Patriots-Broncos playoff game from Gillette Stadium.

Fourth Quarter/Final Thoughts

Highs

There really isn’t too much to complain about in the Patriots 45-10 drubbing of the Denver Broncos. The Pats outgained the Broncos 509 to 252. This is the full-60 minutes the team has been looking for all season.

“I can’t say enough about the players today; they obviously did a great job,” head coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “We had a good week in the Bye week and I think we got a lot of things done. Once we found out who we were playing, I think these guys did a good job focusing on a target and they were obviously ready to go today. You have to give the players all the credit in the world, they stepped up and made a lot of big plays throughout the game for 60 minutes. We got contributions from everybody.”

“They put up with me, so they deserve this,” he added.

For Brady and Belichick, it’s their 15th postseason win together, the most by a coach-QB in NFL history.

Midway through the quarter, the Pats made a nice goal-line stand keeping the Broncos off the scoreboard from three yards out. Even with the big lead, they still kept the pressure on Tebow.

The offense was clicking on all cylinders. Brady finished 26-for-34 with six touchdowns and 363 passing yards, a new postseason career high for Brady. Gronk had 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Hernandez was a beast no matter what position he was playing. The offensive line kept Brady upright, minus a sack in the fourth quarter, and let him do his thing.

The defense was really impressive in this one. After getting burned by Tebow and the Broncos for 252 rushing yards, they held Denver to just 252 yards total.  The pressure was there all game and they forced Tebow to his right, out of his comfort zone. This was a great game for the D to build off as they head for the AFC Championship.

So the Patriots are now just one win away from another Super Bowl berth. There is a lot to build off this victory, and the Pats are out of their postseason slump.

“It’s all about winning,” Brady said after the game. “You lose a few playoff games and it’s a very bitter way to end the season. It sits on your mind for quite a long time. For us to come out and play like we did, have a very solid performance in the most important game of the year is very gratifying.”

Now it’s on to the AFC championship, and no matter who they play, the Pats will be ready.

“I think that we have eight days until the biggest game of the year,” said Brady. “From this point on, everyone will be focused on what we need to do next week, and hopefully come out and play for another championship.”

Lows

- Hernandez had a bit of a scare late in the game. He took a big hit on a two-yard carry in the fourth with the Pats up 32. He was on the sideline getting what looked to be a concussion test and his return was “Questionable” with what the team called a head injury.

The good news: Hernandez said he felt fine after the game. Good news, but we’ll have to keep an eye on this during the week.

- It looks like Logan Mankins tweaked his knee again, as he was in and out of the game for most of the second half. Surprisingly he played all but one snap in the first half. You could tell he wanted to be out there, hopefully he can do the same next weekend.

- Third downs were a bit of a problem for the defense. Yes, Denver only went 6-for-17, but that is six times the defense could have gotten off the field and didn’t. The Broncos were also 2-for-3 on fourth down conversions.

- There was a late-game skirmish, after a Tom Brady punt, when there was no need for one. Von Miller hit Dan Connolly from behind, and Matt Light took exception. Took some of the glory away from a very good Brady punt.

Patriots win 45-10

Third Quarter

Highs

- Denver got the ball to start the half but the Pats defense forced them into a three-and-out. They also got a good punt return by Julian Edelman to give them the ball at the Broncos 44-yard line.

- On their first  possession of the half, the Patriots do more damage.  Tom Brady goes to Aaron Hernandez this time around for a 17-yard touchdown.  That’s Brady’s sixth of the game and I guess that’s ties a post season record.  There are so many records being broken it’s hard to keep track.

- Denver’s second possession of the quarter and the defense will not let Tim Tebow get started.  They sack Tim to force a long third down.  Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork on the sack.  Broncos go three-and-out again. Noticing a trend? Who is this defense????

- Denver’s third possession of the quarter was a long drive, but the defense kept putting a hurting on Tim Tebow and the offense.  Big sacks by Shaun Ellis and Brandon Spikes and strong stops by Jerod Mayo on the drive.

Lows

- The Patriots give the ball back on their second possession. Rookie back Stevan Ridley fumbled on a passing play to give Bill Belichick something to talk about this week. If the rookie wanted to get his carries in the playoffs, this was not the way to show he deserves them.

- The Pats D played well on Denver’s third possession of the quarter, but failed on third downs.  The result was a field goal, so not too much damage.

Patriots up 42-10 after three….

Second Quarter

Highs

- The D forced back t0 back three-and-outs after the Broncos first touchdown. Good pressure on Tebow, keeping him in the pocket and then forcing him to make bad throws or throw it away.

- On Denver’s fourth possession of the quarter the Patriots have another great stands on defense.  Gerard Warren and Vince Wilfork were big here and the Pats get the ball on downs.

- The Pats get a big play on their fourth possession of the quarter, with Tom Brady finding Deion Branch for a 61-yard touchdown.

- The Pats D gave Denver nothing on their final possession of the quarter and got the ball back for the offense. The Pats moved down the field fast and Brady hits Gronk for a 19-yard touchdown.  That’s five touchdowns for Brady in the first half, an NFL record for the playoffs. That’s three touchdowns for Gronkowski, tying an NFL postseason record.  Eight receptions for 97 yards for Gronkowski, and we’re only at the half!

- The Broncos have no answer for the other New England tight end, Aaron Hernandez, but as a running back. He broke a nine-yard run, and has 58 yards on three carries. Dare I say he is the best running back on the team?

- Brady also passed Dan Marino for fifth all-time in postseason passing yards.

Lows

- First play of the quarter and the Broncos score a touchdown.  Willis McGahee with a 5 yard run.  

- The Patriots had to punt away their first possession of the quarter after Brady nearly his second interception of the game.  The game kind of slowed down for a bit, but as you can see, it picked right back up.

- The Pats go three-and-out on their third possession. Branch had a chance for a big catch but he dropped it.

- Logan Mankins had to leave early in the second quarter after his knee started acting up. He did return, but the fact he had to leave is never a good sign that the knee is healthy. We’ll see if the Broncos look to exploit it.

Pats up 35 to 7 at the half

First Quarter

Highs

- The Pats offense got the ball first and it didn’t take them long to make something of it. Aaron Hernandez had a 43-yard run and Wes Welker a seven-yard touchdown catch.  The Pats wanted to start fast and they did.  New England scored on five plays in one minute and fifty-one seconds.

- On Denver’s first possession of the quarter the Pats defense got a turnover.  Big hit and sack by Rob Ninkovich forced a Tim Tebow fumble that was recovered by Brandon Spikes. The Pats offense said thank you with a score.  Again Tom Brady and company get down the field; this time Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on a 10-yard touchdown pass.  The catch was one of his best of the season with Gronk going all out. The Pats offense was off to a flying start.

- On Denver’s second offensive possession the Pats defense forced a punt. Ninkovich is everywhere around Tebow right now. He forced the fumble on their first possession, and had more pressure on a 2nd and five play which resulted in an incomplete.

Lows

- The Pats are struggling a bit on 3rd downs. Tebow scrambled for 14-yards on a 3rd down in their first possession. In their second possession, Willis McGahee was hit behind the line of scrimmage, but broke a 17-yard run after the contact. Right before the end of the quarter, Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas for 13 yards on a 3rd and three. They have to get off the field when given the chance.

Read: Levan Reid’s Patriots Blog

- Brady missed bad on a pass over the middle to Gronk and Quinton Carter picked him off. Broncos took over on the NE 24 and scored to start the second quarter.

Patriots Up 14-0 after one….

After the game, stay tuned for all the reaction and analysis on Patriots Postgame on 98.5 The Sports Hub and Patriots 5th Quarter on WBZ-TV.

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