By Gregory Hunt
Ever since future hall-of-fame quarterback Peyton Manning joined the Denver Broncos in 2012, it’s been a major NFL event whenever the Broncos have faced Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Now that Manning is sidelined with a foot injury, Sunday night’s game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High won’t be as big an event, but it will still be an important game as the 8-2 Broncos and the 10-0 Patriots are still fighting the 8-2 Cincinnati Bengals for playoff position in the AFC.
Patriots are running out of receivers
Only one week after the Patriots lost wide receiver Julian Edelman to a broken foot, the team has now lost his apparent replacement, Danny Amendola, to a sprained knee he suffered in Monday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills. Edelman will miss the rest of the regular season, but he is expected back in time for the playoffs. When speaking to the media on Tuesday, head coach Bill Belichick declined to give any updates on Amendola’s condition, so it is unknown how long Amendola will be out of action.
“We’ll give everything a chance to try to sort it out and then we’ll list them on the practice report based on where they are on Wednesday,” Belichick said. “I know everyone wants instant diagnosis, but it doesn’t always work that way.”
New England lost another receiver on Monday night when Aaron Dobson suffered a foot injury. That leaves the team with only three healthy receivers on the active roster; Brandon LaFell, Chris Harper and Matthew Slater. LaFell missed the first five games of the season while recovering from a foot injury. Harper is a rookie that has played in only two games and has yet to make his first catch in the NFL. Matthew Slater is a leader on special teams and will play at wide receiver only in the event of an emergency.
Keshawn Martin may play against the Broncos, but he was inactive against the Bills with a back injury. The Patriots currently have no wide receivers on the practice squad.
Inadvertent whistle doesn’t faze Brady
Monday night’s game featured a controversial play in the third quarter when a pass to Amendola that appeared to be going for a big gain, and possibly a touchdown, was negated by an inadvertent whistle. The ball was placed at the spot of Amendola’s catch, and the Patriots went on to miss a field goal on that drive.
“Line judge lost track of the football, blew his whistle inadvertently,” said Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating, to NFL Network. “It was a mistake. Whistle shouldn’t have been blown.” Blandino praised the officiating crew for how they responded to this situation, saying they did “a good job of handling where they were going to put the football because both teams are affected by the whistle blowing.”
During a radio interview on Tuesday, quarterback Tom Brady didn’t express any bitterness about the whistle, and acknowledged that even the best officiating crews can make mistakes.
“I’m not sure how much (Amendola) would have gained,” Brady said about that play. “The whistle blew, and the guys kind of stopped, so I don’t know. I think the refs make mistakes too, so it’s just one of those things. They’re not perfect. We’re not perfect as players. I know they get a lot of criticism and so forth, but that crew is a good crew. We’ve had them a lot, and those things happen. We have to figure out a way to overcome it.”
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.