Sunday, January 24, 2016

Patriots Fall Short In AFC Title Tilt; Broncos Advance

"With everyone back, even if no one was back, all the Patriots have to do is to play their game – do their job – and hold onto the football to win this game. If they lose, they will have beaten themselves." - Foxborough Free Press, January 24, 2016


The Denver Broncos are going to the Super Bowl, winning against the New England Patriots offense that didn't play their game - being taken out of their element by a relentless Broncos' pass rush, compounded by what appeared to be general malaise that was never properly addressed.

Denver's pack of speedy sack artists stomped Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady like a grape, logging four sacks and nailing him by a factor of four as he released the ball. Through three quarters, he threw two bad interceptions and overthrew receivers down the field and threw balls in the dirt on short routes, and on most that he connected on, he lead his receivers into nasty collisions.
Brady and the Patriots were handcuffed by poor play calling

It's safe to say that the Denver Broncos defense dictated terms to the Patriots' offense for 45 minutes, limiting the potent New England offense to a miserable 158 total yards through three quarters, when desperation set in on the visitors' sideline.

But maybe, just maybe, desperation dictated to the Patriots offense in a way that the Broncos' defense couldn't.

New England gained more than half of their total yardage in the game during a fourth quarter that held promise all the way to the final seconds, putting together drives of 62, 57 and 50 yards, each time reaching the Broncos red zone, and had the Patriots called on kicker Stephen Gostkowski for chip shot field goals on consecutive drives, perhaps we're talking about a scrappy bunch from Foxborough getting to Santa Clara on guts and guile...

...but on both occasions, down by eight points. the play calls instead were tries for first downs, both times failing miserably.

So there were the Patriots with the ball at midfield with 1:52 remaining, still trailing by eight instead of two if they had gone for chip shot field goals on their previous two possessions, instead needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion just to tie the game and send it into overtime - and it wouldn't have even mattered that Gostkowski had missed his first PAT in like forever, because had the Patriots taken the earlier points, a field goal sends them to the Super Bowl.

Instead, we are left to wonder what could have been.

The Patriots' defense, as it has all season long, played plenty well enough to win the game, as evidenced by holding the Broncos to 244 total yards, but after allowing the Broncos to drive the field on their opening drive, the defense allowed just another 160 yards the rest of the game, and even though the offense put them in short field situations on both Brady interceptions, the 20 points allowed should have been good enough.

Should have been. The stingy Patriots' defense forced three-and-outs on seven different drives and nine punts overall out of fourteen Broncos' possessions, and forcing Denver's offense to move backwards on five of those. But the Patriots' offense was just as helpless for long stretches, the major difference between the two squads being Brady's two picks, which resulted in 10 points for Denver.

So in the end, both defenses played well enough for their teams to win, but the Patriots couldn't overcome their own mistakes on the field and from the sidelines while the Broncos succeeded in holding on for dear life and dodging bullet after bullet that instead found the collective foot of the New England offense.

Brady vs. Manning? That's what this game was billed up to be, but what we got instead was Bill Belichick and his staff out-coaching themselves. They never compensated for their poor line play by going up tempo. They turned the ball over. They allowed the Broncos defense to dictate to their offense.

In other words, they didn't play Patriots' football and beat themselves.

Sure, the Broncos defense had a lot to do with how the Patriots' offense performed, but the Patriots themselves had just as much to do with it.

Perhaps even more.

No comments:

Post a Comment