Deion Branch set a Patriots playoff record with 153 receiving yards tonight. He topped the old record of 143 yards, which he set against Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII (2/1/04). Branch owns the top three Patriots playoff receiving yardage totals (also a 133-yard performance against Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX). In his eight-game playoff career, Branch has exceeded 100 yards four times. Branch has recorded 629 receiving yards in his playoff career, establishing the Patriots career record (Troy Brown, 597).
LONG BALLDeion Branch's 73-yard reception from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter tonight was the longest pass play in Patriots playoff history. The previous longest play in team playoff history was a 63-yard touchdown reception by Benjamin Watson against Jacksonville (1/7/06). Branch's 73-yard grab brought the Patriots from their own 23-yard line to the Denver 4-yard line and was part of a 2-play drive that saw the Patriots cut the Denver lead to 24-13 on a 4-yard touchdown catch by David Givens.
PILING UP YARDS
The Patriots gained 420 yards of total net offense against the Broncos, the second highest yardage output in the team's 28-game playoff history. The only playoff game in which the team totaled more net yards was Super Bowl XXXVIII (2/1/04), when New England gained 481 net yards against the Carolina Panthers.
STILL THE ONETom Brady's third-quarter interception broke a string of 147 consecutive playoff passes without an interception. Brady compiled four straight interception-free playoff games heading into tonight's game and had not thrown a pick since Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers (2/1/04). Despite throwing two interceptions against the Broncos, Brady still holds the lowest playoff interception percentage in NFL history (1.36 percent), having thrown five career playoff interceptions while attempting 367 passes. Brady's playoff interception percentage top's Bart Starr's mark of throwing an interception 1.41 percent of the time (three interceptions on 213 playoff attempts).
SCORING STREAK BY GIVENSDavid Givens grabbed a 4-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter. Givens has now caught a touchdown pass in seven consecutive playoff games, the second longest such streak in NFL history. John Stallworth of the Pittsburgh Steelers holds the NFL record with a touchdown catch in eight straight playoff games from 1978-83. Givens, who is playing in his eighth career playoff game tonight, has caught a touchdown in each of his last seven postseason contests dating back to the 2003 AFC Championship Game. Givens' seven career playoff touchdowns are the most in Patriots history - more than twice as many receiving scores as the next closest player (Stanley Morgan, 3) and two more total touchdown than Curtis Martin (5).
YARDAGE TOTAL RANKS HIGHTom Brady threw for 341 yards against the Broncos, recording the second highest yardage total in Patriots playoff history, behind only his 354-yard performance in Super Bowl XXXVIII (2/1/04). Brady led the NFL in passing yardage in 2005, recording 4,110 yards.
SAMUEL INTERCEPTIONAsante Samuel stepped in front of a Jake Plummer pass intended for Ashley Lelie and intercepted the ball as he was running out of bounds to thwart a Denver scoring threat at the Patriots' 11-yard line. For Samuel, it was his second interception of the 2005 playoffs - last week he picked off a Byron Leftwich pass and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown in the Patriots' 28-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Samuel's two career playoff interceptions are tied for fourth in Patriots playoff history - only Rodney Harrison (6), Ty Law (4) and Fred Marion (3) have recorded more playoff interceptions for New England. The third-year pro has six career regular-season interceptions.
DAVIS A DEEP THREATAndre' Davis provided a breakout play for the Patriots offense when he grabbed a 51-yard pass from Tom Brady in the second quarter to bring the Patriots from their own 11-yard line to the Broncos' 38-yard line. Davis, who was acquired from the Cleveland Browns in a preseason trade, had nine receptions in the 2005 regular season, four of which were for more than 20 yards. Davis' 51-yard grab was the seventh longest catch in Patriots playoff history. Davis' catch set up a 40-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri that gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead.
RARE MISSAdam Vinatieri's miss on a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter ended a streak of 25 consecutive successful fourth-quarter field goals (including regular-season and playoff games). Prior to his miss tonight, the last time Vinatieri had missed a field goal in the fourth quarter was against Buffalo on Dec. 8, 2002 - also on a 43-yarder. The miss also broke a string of 10 consecutive successful field goals in the second half of playoff games. In his playoff career, Vinatieri is now 17-20 (85 percent) in the second half. Dating back to the 2003 regular-season finale, Vinatieri has hit 33 of his last 35 second-half field goals (including playoffs), good for a 94.3 percent accuracy rate.
VRABEL SACKMike Vrabel sacked Jake Plummer for a 7-yard loss on third-and-six in the third quarter, forcing a Denver punt on the next play. The sack raised Vrabel's career playoff total to 7.0 sacks. QUICK HITS
- Running back Heath Evans recorded his first career playoff reception when he grabbed a 3-yard pass on the Patriots' first drive of the evening. Evans is playing in his third career playoff game tonight (2 with Seattle from 2003-04).
- Linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, wide receiver Troy Brown and special teamer Larry Izzo represented the Patriots at tonight's opening coin toss.
- When the Patriots took a 3-0 lead in tonight's game, it marked the seventh time in their last eight playoff games that they had scored first.
- When the Patriots faced a 10-3 halftime deficit against the Broncos, it was the first time they had trailed at halftime of a playoff game since Jan. 19, 2002, when they were behind the Oakland Raiders, 7-0. new England had been either ahead or tied at halftime in nine straight playoff games.
- Tight end Daniel Graham's 18-yard reception in the third quarter was his first reception since Nov. 27 (at Kansas City).
- The Patriots used a flea-flicker to produce a 26-yard gain in the third-quarter. Tom Brady handed the ball off to Corey Dillon, who pitched the ball back to Brady, who found an open Deion Branch for a 26-yard gain.
- Troy Brown's 33-yard reception in the third quarter was the longest grab of his playoff career. Brown played in his 17th career playoff game tonight and is the Patriots' all-time leading playoff receiver.
- With tonight's loss, the Patriots dropped to 18-4 (.818) since 2001 when facing a team for the second time in a season.
STANDING THEIR GROUND
The Patriots defense came up with a big stand deep in their own territory to keep Denver off of the scoreboard in the second quarter. With Denver gaining a second-and-two at the Patriots' 4-yard line, Richard Seymour stopped Tatum Bell for a 1-yard gain, setting up third-and-1. On the next play, Ty Warren stopped Jake Plummer for no gain on a quarterback sneak. Then, on fourth down, Asante Samuel's tight coverage on Ashley Lelie forced an incomplete pass in the end zone to end the scoring threat and preserve a scoreless tie.
SCORELESS FIRST QUARTERTonight's game was the Patriots' third straight playoff game in which there has been no score in the first quarter. Additionally, five of the Patriots' last six playoff games have begun with a scoreless opening period. The six-game stretch began with Super Bowl XXXVIII, when the Patriots and Panthers ended the first quarter in a 0-0 tie. The only time in the Patriots' last six playoff games that either team got on the board in the opening quarter was in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, when the Patriots led the Pittsburgh Steelers 10-3 after one quarter. The Patriots and their opponents were also both scoreless following the first quarter of the 2004 divisional playoff game against Indianapolis, Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX, and last week's first-round game against Jacksonville.
WINNING STREAK SNAPPEDTonight's loss snapped the Patriots' NFL-record 10-game playoff winning streak. Before tonight, the last time the Patriots lost a playoff game was on Jan. 3, 1999, when they dropped a 25-10 decision to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Wild Card Weekend game in Jacksonville. After that loss, the Patriots went 10-0 in the playoffs and won Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. New England now owns all of the NFL's consecutive victory marks: consecutive overall wins (21 from 2003-04), consecutive regular-season wins (18 from 2003-04), and consecutive playoff wins (10 from 2001-05).