Peyton Manning led the high-scoring Broncos into Gillette Stadium Sunday evening as arguably the top team in the NFL.
But Tom Brady and the home Patriots were the ones making all the plays as New England improved to 7-2 on the season with a 43-21 victory, helping stamp Bill Belichick's squad as the team to beat in the AFC. And though snow and wind were storylines early in the day, the game didn't really play out due to weather. Simply, the Patriots were the better team.
Brady vs. Manning XVI wasn't nearly as memorable as some of the previous meetings in the long-standing rivalry, partially because the Patriots took care of business on both sides of the ball throughout.
Though both passers had thrown for exactly 178 yards at halftime, the Patriots held 27-7 advantage at the break thanks to a Julian Edelman punt return touchdown as well as a short score set up by a Rob Ninkovich interception.
The New England offense continues to roll through the air as Brady notched his 62nd career 300-yard game while throwing four touchdowns on the way to a 97.4 rating.
Somewhat apropos of the ongoing great debate regarding Brady and Manning, the latter threw for 438 yards in the losing effort. Manning didn't have a third down conversion until the third quarter.
Brady improved to 11-5 all-time in matchups with Manning.
The Patriots ride a five-game winning streak into the Week 10 bye. The big win over the Broncos was highlighted by plenty of impressive plays on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. Brady, the AFC Offensive Player of the Month in October, got off to a nice start in November. Rob Gronkowski was over 100 yards once again while scoring his 50th career TD. Patrick Chung had an impressive night in coverage, an area in which he sometimes struggles. There were certainly plenty of superlatives to go around.
Here are some of the personnel highs and lows for New England after the team took care of business to send Manning home upset after the upset once again:
Rob Ninkovich – The defensive end/outside linebacker led a front that did an impressive job stunting the Broncos run game. He also made some plays for a unit that's without bookend Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo. Ninkovich dropped into coverage to make a nice interception to set up a score. He also had an impressive day against Broncos right tackle Paul Cornick, in both pressure and dr
awing a holding call.
Julian Edelman – After a couple quiet weeks and few drops that had some wondering if Edelman might be banged up, JE11 bounced back in a big way. Edelman had nine catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. He also continued his resurgent season as a punt returner, taking his only attempt of the night back 84 yards for a touchdown. Edelman looks just fine and proved himself once again both a playmaker and a comfortable complementary weapon in the Patriots passing attack. That's why he's Minitron.
Jamie Collins – The New England linebacker was an active force all night, both in coverage and as a blitzer. Collins had 10 solo stops among his game-high 11 tackles. He played a big part in the Patriots ability to stop the run up front with limited numbers and size. He also put some pressure on Manning as the Patriots held the Broncos to just 2.5 yards a carry on the night with no run that went longer than 8 yards.
Brandon Browner/Darrelle Revis** – Neither of New England's big free agent additions in the secondary were dominant against Denver. Revis was simply adequate, giving up early completions to both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas to start off an unspectacular day against one of the league's top attacks. Browner continues to ride the line between impressive physical play and a barrage of flags. He got called for another three penalties in the winning effort. He saw some time in safety and linebacker roles in the middle of the field. His style surely will get more leeway in the postseason style officiating. Clearly Revis and Browner are judged on a curve based on their resumes, experience and salaries. They can be better. And that's the good news for the Patriots defense, coming out of a three-score win over a high-powered attack.
Shane Vereen – While the Patriots plan was clearly to keep things going through the air, as New England's passing back Vereen never really got things going. His timing with Brady on swing passes was off all night. He had a drop. He didn't make much happen after his catches in terms of making people miss. He averaged just 2.6 yards a carry on the ground. He averaged just 7 yards through the air, even though he had a touchdown. Vereen just isn't becoming the complementary weapon on the offense that he should be.
Danny Amendola – Amendola didn't have a terrible game. He actually had two catches for 35 yards including a nice third-down conversion. But he also had a ball tip off his hands leading to Brady's first interception in quite some time. It was a fastball that Brady probably shouldn't have thrown, but it's still seems to that when something goes wrong Amendola might be in the area. Amendola also bobbled a short kickoff return that led to him having to down just at the edge of the end zone. He also put himself in a tight spot trying to catch a punt and getting hit to draw a penalty. Just a hairy situation. It's nitpicking, but Amendola was still a bit off overall. Of course he looked better than the guy he was signed to replace, Denver's Wes Welker.
What do you think about our lists? Too hard on Browner/Revis? Who else should be here? Let us know with a comment below!
- Broncos-Patriots analysis: A complete win for New England
- Breaking down the Patriots victory over Denver
- Brady 11/02: Gronk is a tough matchup for everyone
- Belichick 11/2: Really proud of the way we played
- Game Notes: Patriots have won 72 straight home games when leading at half
- Game Recap: Brady outduels Manning, Patriots romp 43-21