Last Sunday, the Patriots accomplished what seemed to be an impossible task -- they kept Peyton Manning guessing. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe explains how Bill Belichick confused Manning and the Broncos. He says that the only tendency of the Patriots defensive scheme was that there were no tendencies. Belichick pulled out all the stops for this game and worked to perfection.
"It was like six game plans within a game plan; they did a masterful job of mixing up their coverages from series to series, and even play to play," explains Volin. "Manning studied the still photos on the sideline, but it was pointless. He wouldn't see the same looks for the rest of the game."
Unfortunately, the road doesn't get any easier for the Patriots. After the bye week the Patriots have five straight games against teams with a winning record. First up on the docket is Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. CSNNE.com's Tom Curran previews the Patriots upcoming opponent and explains how Andrew Luck could be tougher to stop than Peyton Manning.
"Luck promises to threaten the edges of the Patriots defense in a way Manning didn't and he has the acceleration to pick up a quick third-and-medium if given an alley," writes Curran. "There are elements of Luck's game that Manning just doesn't possess. Mobility. Speed. Strength. Physical toughness. Arm power."
It's pretty amazing to think how much the narrative of the Patriots has changed over the past five weeks. Mike Reiss explains how the team was able to turn their season around in his weekly mailmag on ESPNBoston.com. He lists six things that led to the Patriots resurgence after hitting rock bottom in Kansas City. Chief among them is the improved play of the offensive line.
"Much like offensive-line play itself, which weaves the work of five players into one as they all attempt to see the same picture in front of them, the answer has multiple layers," explains Reiss. "Once the Patriots got things squared away up front, everything else could fall into place."
Since week five the Patriots have averaged 40.2 points per game, which is more than double their average through the first four weeks. Brandon Gdula of NumberFire.com took a look at the Patriots offense from a statistical perspective to see whether the Patriots offense is truly the best in football once again. He explains that the Patriots passing unit has been the best in the NFL over the past five weeks and it's really not even close.
"Simply put, the Pats are on a tear, and it doesn't seem like any defense is going to slow them down any time soon - even if their run game isn't up to par," writes Gdula.
Arguably the biggest reason for the Patriots resurgence on offense is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk has been on a tear the past few weeks and seems to be getting better each game. The all-pro tight end made one of his best catches of the year against the Denver Broncos; it was so impressive that ESPN's 'Sport Science' decided to take a closer look and examine how he did it.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald says the Patriots offense will continue to feast when Rob Gronkowski plays like a beast. Howe says that the Broncos tried to chip him at the line of scrimmage and consistently double-teamed him in the secondary, but even that couldn't stop Gronk.
"Gronk smashed the Broncos' kitchen sink, and his ability to crack through multiple defensive looks has been a major reason for the Pats' offensive explosion during their five-game winning streak and why they'll come out of the bye week as the favorites to claim the AFC crown," says Howe.
But what happens if someone finally stops Gronk? It's a task that's certainly easier said than done, but hypothetically if a defense can stop Gronk, will the Patriots offense struggle? Troy Brown appeared on Comcast SportsNet's 'Sports Tonight' and he believes that even if a defense is able to stop Gronkowski, it will inevitably open up other holes that Tom Brady can take advantage of.