By Danny Cox
It was a hard-fought victory by the New England Patriots that was not really decided until the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos simply wouldn’t go away and never quit, but it became obvious as the game wore on that the Patriots would outlast the Broncos. When all was said and done, the Pats won a tough road game by the score of 16-3.
This victory didn’t just improve the Patriots’ record to 12-2, it won the AFC East for them and clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs as well.
For once, it was not New England’s offense that was spectacular. The offense played a bit more conservative. The Patriots finished the day with just over 300 yards of total offense, but every single yard was earned in a tough fashion. They held onto the ball for almost seven minutes more than the Broncos and didn’t commit a single turnover.
Tom Brady had 188 yards with no touchdowns on a day where Julian Edelman was his top target with six receptions for 75 yards. In the running game, it wasn’t LeGarrette Blount with another big game, even though he had the lone touchdown of the entire game. Instead, it was Dion Lewis who finished the day with 95 yards on 18 carries to lead both teams.
Sunday’s game was just a masterful performance by the defense, as they showed the world that the Patriots aren’t just all about an electric offense and Tom Brady. Denver finished with just 310 total yards of offense while committing three turnovers (two fumbles and one interception).
Trevor Siemian was targeted all day and it showed, as he was sacked four times, two of which belonged to Trey Flowers. Denver could never really get anything going and the running game was almost nonexistent. Justin Forsett led the team with 37 yards on 10 carries while rookie Devontae Booker had just 17 yards on six carries.
Denver was shut down by a Patriots’ defense that had a great showing from beginning to end.
Special Teams: B+
Stephen Gostkowski hit all three of his field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards. He was also spot on with his lone extra point attempt. Ryan Allen had a busy day for the Patriots, as he punted seven times, but he did well at putting the Broncos where he wanted them. The Broncos were pinned inside their own 20-yard-line on three occasions.
This was a well-played game on both sides of the ball by both teams. The Broncos truly hung in there, but they were overpowered by the Patriots who hounded Trevor Siemian. Bill Belichick and his team displayed patience, as they remained calm in a tough environment and trusted the team would avoid mistakes and outlast the Broncos.
The New England Patriots have two games remaining and both are against AFC East rivals. While two more victories would be nice, the team has already secured a bye. Belichick may not want to risk injuries to his starters, as they now have their eyes set on the second round of the playoffs. It remains to be seen how much playing time the starters will see when the team meets the New York Jets in week 16.