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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/19/2011

Greg A Bedard of the Boston Globe writes about the two Patriots' defenses we saw last night. The good and the bad. In the first quarter, Denver was able to pile up 218 total yards and 167 on the ground, the worst ever allowed by a Bill Belichick coached defense. "I'm not going to make any excuses because obviously they put those numbers up there,'' said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. "You have to put that on us because we can't do that in the first quarter.'' But after the first quarter Patriots fans saw something they had been hoping for all season, a shutdown defense. Through the final three quarters the defense only allowed 175 yards and only 10 points. So what was the big difference? "We needed to change our spacing,'' coach Bill Belichick said. "We were in a little more odd spacing to try to keep better leverage on the formation."

Ian Rapport of the Boston Herald writes about the Patriots clinching the 2011 AFC East championship with last nights win in Denver. The division crown is the Patriots' ninth in the past 11 seasons. "That's one of our goals at the start of the season, to meet the challenge of our division," coach Bill Belichick said. "They've met a lot of challenges. This was a big one."

Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe writes about the career day Aaron Hernandez had against the Broncos. Hernandez finished the day with nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown. Both nine catches and 129 yards are career highs for the second year tight end out of Florida. "He came through huge for us,'' fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "You never know who's going to get all the yards in a game. You don't know what the coverages are going to be, so that's why everyone has to be ready. Anyone can have a big game any day. That's how it always works. If they're focused on me, well, Aaron's a great player, you've got to focus on him, too. Sometimes they focus on him, which gets me open. It works great.''

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com takes his weekly look at offensive snaps for the Patriots in their win over the Denver Broncos. Nobody played every snap, but Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez lead the way with 75 and 72 respectively with Wes Welker totaling 70 plays. Chad Ochocinco played his biggest role this season with Deion Branch out with and injury, playing in 54 snaps and scoring a touchdown. Every active running back saw time for the Patriots with Danny Woodhead playing 28 snaps, BenJarvus Green-Ellis playing 29, Stevan Ridley playing 18 and Kevin Faulk playing eight.

Jeff Howe of NESN.com writes about the other news coming out of Denver. Before the Patriots defeated the Broncos on Sunday, it was reported that linebacker Jerod Mayo signed a five-year contract extension. "It's great to have him," Bill Belichick said. "He's our defensive captain, has been since the second year in the league. He's a good football player. He's a good leader. He really takes a lot of pride in what he does and makes the players around him better. It's great to have him with us for some more years."

Mary Paoletti of CSNNE.com writes about the Patriots balanced attack against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. With Deion Branch inactive and Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski combining for 94 yards the Patriots looked to the running game to provide a spark. Rookie Stevan Ridley led the running game with 65 yards on 11 carries. "We're just doing what we go out there and practice every day," Ridley said. "We get in the game a lot and sometimes we end up throwing the ball a little bit more than people would like, but it's all momentum. When the offense gets rolling, we kind of go with what works. It was good to have it on both sides of the ball -- the run and the pass -- but we do whatever we have to do to get a win." Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Tom Brady added rushing touchdowns.

Mike Petragila of WEEI.com writes about Mark Anderson having a big game after the Patriots lost Andre Carter to injury. The former defensive rookie-of-the-year has played second fiddle to Carter most of the year, but shined in Carters absence. Anderson finished the game with two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery on a great play defending Tim Tebow on the option. "Losing Andre is a big part of our defense," Anderson said. "So hopefully it's nothing serious. We were able to look past that and everybody stepped up to make plays."

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