By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The once-woeful Patriots pass defense is coming off its best game of the season, when it held Phillip Rivers to just 212 yards on 57 percent passing in Week 8. But this coming Sunday in Denver, the unit has a chance to one-up itself.
That’s because when the Patriots visit the Broncos on national television, they’ll be going up against Brock Osweiler. Though Osweiler inexplicably guided the Broncos to a 5-2 record during his brief stint as a starter in 2015, he just might be the worst quarterback currently starting in the NFL.
That much could be surmised from looking at the stats, which show a 50 percent completion rate and a 54.3 passer rating. But it’s somehow even worse on film.
NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger regularly breaks down game film on Twitter, and on Tuesday he shared just some of the major flaws in Osweiler’s game. Baldinger rarely uses his “#BaldyBreakdowns” as a window to overly criticize players. But in this instance, Osweiler left him no choice.
On the first play of Denver’s blowout loss to the Eagles, Baldinger pointed out how Osweiler’s long stride and throwing motion can be detrimental when a pass needs to be released quickly:
Complicating that long throwing motion is a lack of timing with receivers, which Baldinger pointed out on an incompletion that really should have been a pick-six.
The physical struggles are one thing, but for the offense to be as out of sync as it was on this next play? That might be the mark of a QB who doesn’t have a full command of the playbook.
A closer look at one of Osweiler’s interceptions showed the quarterback staring down his receiver over the middle from the very second he got the football in his hands.
And then, when looking at what might have been the worst pass in the entire NFL in 2017, Baldinger was left flabbergasted as to why any quarterback would ever even attempt such a throw.
Not helping matters is that Denver’s offensive line — which allowed three sacks and 11 QB hits on Sunday — isn’t exactly standing tall.
Baldinger concluded his film study with complete befuddlement at Osweiler’s careless interception.
Now, for some very strange reason, Broncos head coach Vance Joseph decided to give Osweiler another start this weekend against the Patriots. Joseph went so far as to say that Osweiler “earned” another start. The exact reasoning for such a claim remains very questionable. But for the time being, it’s the Patriots who figure to be the greatest beneficiary.
It’s probably worth noting, too, that in a pair of starts against New England last year while with Houston, Osweiler completed 58 percent of his passes for an average of 4.85 yards per pass attempt and 197 yards per game. He threw one touchdown and four interceptions while taking five sacks. The Patriots won the two games by a delightfully palindromic 61-16 combined score.
With that dreadful four-week start to begin the year, the Patriots still rank 32nd in the NFL in yards allowed per game. They’re tied for 18th in interceptions and tied for 23rd in sacks. But with strong defensive performances against Atlanta and Los Angeles, the unit has turned things around of late. Sunday figures to be another step in that direction, thanks to the Broncos’ decision to go with Osweiler.