The Patriots 17-7 loss to the Broncos on Sunday came in a very physical game. Ultimately, the Broncos defense was able to control the Patriots running game, which had been looking sharp in the Pats first two games.
"The backs ran hard," said Tom Brady in his postgame press conference. "I think they did a pretty good job with our running game. We got down, we were one-dimensional. They looked pretty good in coverage. They have got some good tough guys out there."
Denver's defense held the Patriots to 50 rushing yards in the game – a low for the Pats this season. The ground game only managed 2.4 yards-per carry.
Part of the reason the Pats running game didn't look as good was that running back Corey Dillon didn't play for much of the game. Dillon had five carries for 16 yards, signaling that he wanted a break after a game-long 10-yard run that came in the first quarter. He only had two carries after that, leaving the rookie to handle the majority of the load.
Without Dillon rotating in, Denver's defense held Laurence Maroney to only 18 yards. His average hit a season-low of 1.5 yards-per carry – a big drop from last week, where he averaged 4.1 yards-per carry.
"It is frustrating not being able to run the ball," said tight end Daniel Graham after the game. "We have been doing that the last couple of games and been running pretty well. We have to go back to the drawing board and see what we did wrong here and move on."
"The [Broncos] defense played well," said tight end Benjamin Watson. "My hat's off to them. They deserved to win. They played well. We also didn't execute as good as we needed to."
Their running game suffered and although the Patriots had more first downs than the Broncos (22-19) and more passing yards (320-256), the Broncos limited New England's options enough to beat them. Denver entered the game with no touchdowns allowed in their first two games, so Brady's fourth-quarter touchdown pass to wideout Doug Gabriel was the first touchdown Denver's defense allowed in 32 possessions. It was also Gabriel's first touchdown catch as a Patriot.
While the Patriots were looking "one-dimensional," as Brady put it, the Broncos created opportunities by executing a more balanced offense, passing for 256 yards and running for 144.
"They always have had a good running game," said linebacker Rosevelt Colvin afterward. "So you know you can expect them to try to do whatever they need to do to get that done. It was up to us to stop them and we were unsuccessful."
Broncos running back Tatum Bell had a strong game given the intensity of play at Gillette Stadium Sunday night. He posted 123 yards on 27 carries (4.6 yards-per carry).
The Patriots didn't allow any turnovers in the game, but neither did the Broncos. As was the case in last week's game against the Jets, big plays were costly for the Patriots.
Early in the fourth quarter, Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer dropped a long pass into the hands of receiver Javon Walker, who beat safety James Sanders and corner back Asante Samuel over the top. Walker scored an 83-yard touchdown on the play.
"It was over-the-top coverage," explained a stoic Samuel after the game. "Any one of us should have made the play. It's not just on him, it's on me too. Either one of us could have made the play."
Sanders seemed equally distraught, saying, "I tried to get over the top. Didn't make it in time. Didn't make the play. I've at least got to make a tackle so we have the opportunity to play defense next time around."
Colvin summed it up best, saying "Guy just made a play. The defense was called, and he threw it up there. Javon Walker came down with it and made the guy miss. Same problem that happened in the Jets game, missed tackles and giving up a big play. Definitely something we have to continue to work on. We continue to get hurt by it, so we've got to focus on it and try to get better."
The Patriots travel to Cincinnati next weekend to play Carson Palmer and the Bengals.
Quotes of Note:
Thoughts on the defense's play from starters Rosevelt Colvin and Asante Samuel.
Colvin: "I don't think we played well. We gave up too many points. We gave up more than our offense scored. That doesn't sit well, I don't think, with any of the guys on defense. We didn't play well, we didn't win the game. I think that's the most important thing. Fortunately enough, this is not the end of the season like it was last year. We have 13-some odd games left in the regular season to get to where we want to be."
Samuel: "I think we need to focus a little more for 60 minutes, instead of for a half or a quarter. We've just got to go out there and play our keys and stay focused. All around man, passing, running – we just played [expletive] on defense. If we play like that again, we'll lose every time. So we just got to make it better."
Tough gameA number of players left the game with injuries in Sunday's hard-hitting matchup. Patriot players who were escorted off the field with injuries or just for a needed breather include Rodney Harrison, Corey Dillon, Eugene Wilson andMatt Light. Denver players who left the game for at least a play include Al Wilson andDarrent Williams. A number of these players returned to the field before the game was over, and there's no way to know for sure how severe any of their ailments were until the injury reports are issued on Wednesday.
A long single-game drought
The Patriots did not score through the first three quarters on Sunday, marking the first time New England had not scored through three quarters of a game since Sept. 7, 2003. In that game, the Patriots ended up being shut out 31-0 by the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Watson sets a career-high
Tight End Benjamin Watson set a career high with six receptions and tied his regular-season career high with 66 receiving yards. Watson also had 66 receiving yards against New Orleans on Nov. 20, 2005. His previous career high for receptions also came in the New Orleans game, when he caught four passes.
Brady lets 'em rip
Tom Brady tied a career high with 55 pass attempts against the Broncos. He also attempted 55 passes in a 33-30 victory at Chicago on Nov. 10, 2002. Sunday, Brady completed 31 of his 55 throws, his highest completion total since also connecting on 31 passes at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25, 2005. Brady has now completed 30 or more passes seven times in his career and New England is now 5-2 in those games. Brady threw for 320 yards against Denver, marking the 13th time in his career he has exceeded the 300-yard mark.