What It Means – While all the hype pre-game was about Brady vs. Manning round 346, there were a lot of players that stepped up besides the two star quarterbacks in this matchup. The Patriots had a full team effort to get the win today, proving that they will need the defense to provide better performances than last year if they hope to have another deep run into late January. With the win, Tom Brady improves to 9-4 against Peyton Manning in his career, and shows that he is not afraid to hand the ball off to the running backs more often this season in the process.
Welker Unstoppable – It was eminent from the beginning of the game that the Broncos would have no answer for Wes Welker. Welker had 9 receptions in the first half alone, setting a record for the most receptions he’s ever had in a half. Denver couldn’t stop Wes in the second half either, as he racked up another 4 receptions, finishing the game with 104 yards and a touchdown. Julian Edelman’s absence has only increased the number of snaps that Welker has been on the field for, and that has strongly benefited the Pats fast paced offense in the last few weeks.
McCourty Lacking – Devin McCourty had another let-down performance, as he has yet to put two impressive games together this season. On multiple occasions McCourty failed to turn around in the endzone when Manning was throwing in his direction, with the first of these throws resulting in a pass interference call and the second resulting in a touchdown. Then in a big third down play late in the game for the Broncos, McCourty failed to turn around again when a deep pass was converted to Demaryius Thomas, where Thomas had time to adjust and come back to the ball for the catch. Until McCourty makes corrections on his errors, he will continue to have a lackluster season and put his position in the starting lineup in jeopardy.
Ridley Over 100 Yards, Again – Stevan Ridley continued to impress Sunday, as he surpassed the 100 yard rushing mark once again, finishing the game with 151 yards on the ground. The one downside to Ridley’s outing was a late fumble that kept the Broncos in the game temporarily. Stevan knows this fumble won’t be overlooked by Bill Belichick this week in practice, but it’s always good to have room to improve. Ridley’s hard running style will put him at an increased risk of injury this year, but if he can stay healthy look for him to put up Corey Dillon-like numbers before the season ends.
Hurry-Up Works – The Patriots featured a hurry-up offense for the majority of the game and it worked just fine. It was the first time since the 1970 merger that a team has had 30 first downs in 3 games in a row, and that is due solely to the quick paced offense that the Pats ran seemingly all game. With Brady and Welker clicking as well as they ever have, it allows the offense to move at a quick pace without increasing the risk of turnovers or three and out’s. With Aaron Hernandez potentially returning soon, expect more of the same in the next few weeks, as the Pats improved rushing game this season will only give them more flexibility on the offensive end of the ball.
Defense Better than Good Enough – This time last year the Patriots defense had no identity, as they could be beaten at any aspect of the game. So far this year it has been made clear that it will be hard to run against New England, as they held Denver to 70 yards rushing on the game. While Peyton Manning threw for 345 yards, the Pats caused some timely turnovers late in the fourth-quarter to shut down any chance of a Broncos comeback. The defense will face a tough challenge next week trying to maintain Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch.
Top Note – Patriots rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1978.
Up Next – The Pats head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks at 4:15 pm next Sunday.
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