Before the season started, a Sunday night matchup between the Patriots and Broncos sounded like appointment TV. Now ... less so. But we watched anyway! Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and completed passes to nine different receivers as New England cruised to an easy road win. The Patriots have won five straight games, while the Broncos have lost five straight.
Final score: Patriots 41, Broncos 16
Patriots 41, Broncos 16: After giving up a touchdown with too few players on the field earlier, the Broncos had too many players on the field for a potential punt return, giving the Patriots a first down, and making for an even longer night for Denver.
New England took advantage, extending a 16-play drive that not only produced Tom Brady’s third touchdown pass of the night, but also took 7:31 off the clock and drained all the remaining hope out of Sports Authority Field.
Third quarter: Patriots 34, Broncos 16
Umpire Jeff Rice was inadvertently hit by Patriots linebacker Trevor Reilly, and Rice had to be carted off the field, leaving six referees for the remainder of the game. The good news is that Rice was talking and laughing with his fellow referees before getting carted off.
Patriots 34, Broncos 16: Just when it looked like Denver might make a game of it, New England answered with a quick-strike answer of their own, a 7-play, 75-yard drive to immediately match the Broncos’ touchdown. Dion Lewis, who returned a punt 103 yards for a score earlier, punched this one in from nine yards out and has 47 yards rushing on 10 carries on the night.
The touchdown was made much easier for the Patriots thanks to Denver only having 10 players on the field on defense. Oops.
Patriots 27, Broncos 16: After stalling three times in the red zone in the first half, Denver finally punched one into the end zone in their first drive of the second half. Jamaal Charles ran for 29 yards on the drive, that culminated with Brock Osweiler found Demaryius Thomas for a seven-yard touchdown.
Halftime: Patriots 27, Broncos 9
Patriots 27, Broncos 9: Dwayne Allen’s first catch of the year was a touchdown with 25 seconds left in the half. Allen, in his first season with the Patriots, became the 68th different player to catch a touchdown from Tom Brady.
Patriots 20, Broncos 9: Emmanuel Sanders is having himself a night:
Unfortunately for Denver, it hasn’t led to any touchdowns. But Brandon McManus is now 3-for-3 on 3s.
Patriots 20, Broncos 6: lmao, Brock Osweiler threw a pass away, and with pinpoint accuracy, nailed a guy right in the head:
Soon after, the Broncos were forced to punt, and you know what that means: time for another special teams disaster.
So the Patriots got the ball at the Denver 30-yard line and got another field goal out of it. In one way or another, special teams is responsible for all of New England’s points so far.
Patriots 17, Broncos 6: The Patriots looked ready to strike in the end zone again until Justin Simmons sacked Tom Brady on third-and-goal. But a Stephen Gostkowski chip shot got their lead back to double digits.
First quarter: Patriots 14, Broncos 6
Patriots 14, Broncos 6: Welcome back, Marty B. Lookin’ good:
Bennett isn't even wearing a shoulder harness which is typical if you have a severe shoulder injury.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 13, 2017
Patriots 14, Broncos 6: Emmanuel Sanders, who has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, looks completely healed. He got the Broncos into Patriots territory with a 38-yard catch. But then Denver had to settle for another field goal, which is probably not a recipe to beat the Patriots.
Patriots 14, Broncos 3: Welp, special teams has been a disaster for the Broncos so far. Dion Lewis ran the kick back 103 yards for a touchdown, somehow staying in bounds — and getting a little push from a would-be tackler.
Patriots 7, Broncos 3: Brock Osweiler looked ... good ... on the Broncos’ first offensive possession of the game. He hit Emmanuel Sanders for two big gains, before the drive stalled out. But, Brandon McManus got Denver on the board with a 39-yard field goal.
Patriots 7, Broncos 0: The Broncos got off to a great start, forcing a three-and-out on the Patriots’ first possession. And then Isaiah McKenzie fumbled the punt return, the team’s 20th turnover of the season.
It took the Patriots two plays to find the end zone, on a 14-yard hookup between Tom Brady and Rex Burkhead.
Before the game
The Denver Broncos are languishing at 3-5 and their season is quickly going off the rails. They’ll try to turn things around this week, but that will be easier said than done when the New England Patriots come to Mile High at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream at NBC Sports).
The Broncos have lost five of their last six games and are in a full-blown quarterback crisis right now. Trevor Siemian got benched after a dreadful showing against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8, but Brock Osweiler hasn’t been much better. Osweiler turned in a poor performance in last week’s 51-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, throwing for just 208 yards and two interceptions on 19-of-38 passing.
Meanwhile, Paxton Lynch remains on the shelf with a shoulder injury and the Broncos haven’t given much indication that he’s ready to play yet. Lynch got drafted in the first round last year, but it’s hardly an encouraging sign that he couldn’t beat out Siemian in training camp. He’ll likely get the start sometime later this year if Osweiler continues struggling. Either way, a team that won the Super Bowl only two years ago looks like it’ll be sitting home in January once again.
The Patriots obviously don’t have a quarterback problem, with Tom Brady still playing at an MVP level. In fact, they traded away Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers at the deadline, indicating that they’re confident Brady will continue playing for a few more years.
After a rough 2-2 start to the season (by their standards, the Patriots have reeled off four straight wins and once again are in position to grab a bye week during the playoffs. If the season ended now, they would have the No. 2 seed behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (also 6-2).
A major reason for the Patriots’ turnaround has been an improved defense, which went from the team’s biggest weakness into a more respectable unit. They’re still dead last in the league with 417 yards allowed per game, but the Patriots have given up just 20 points combined over their last two games. They held the Los Angeles Chargers to 13 points and escaped with an eight-point win before their Week 9 bye.
New England’s main injury concern is wide receiver Chris Hogan, who suffered a shoulder injury and likely won’t play even after the bye week. They also lost Dont’a Hightower for the season with a torn pectoral. However, Stephon Gilmore is returning from a concussion, so the defense gets a key secondary piece back for this week.
While New England’s defense isn’t elite, they should do enough to check Osweiler, and if Brady can poke enough holes in the No Fly Zone, this game could get out of hand in a hurry.
- Christian D’Andrea takes a deeper look at the Patriots’ defensive improvement.
While Los Angeles gained an efficient 6.7 yards per play, the Patriots ability to drive Philip Rivers and his team backward in important situations ultimately prevented an upset on Foxborough. With a few notable exceptions (Melvin Gordon’s 87-yard touchdown run first and foremost among them), the New England defense kept the Chargers from gaining any kind of rhythm or identity on the offensive side of the ball, leading to five straight punts in the middle of the game and helping take some drama out of an otherwise stressful season.
- The Broncos looked like they flat-out quit in last week’s blowout loss.
Denver’s slow digression from Super Bowl champion to upper-tier draft pick holder warped forward on Sunday. A 51-23 loss to the Eagles not only convinced AFC West foes to erase the circle they’d put around their upcoming games against the Broncos, but it also proved the legitimacy of Philadelphia’s suddenly scary offense. Excluding kneeldowns, the Eagles averaged 6.6 yards per play against a once-feared defense.
- What if Lynch isn’t the answer in Denver? Mile High Report wonders if he’s already a draft bust.
Here’s the problem: choosing to label Lynch a bust after just two and a half games in the NFL is lazy and reactionary. Even still, the notion that he isn’t mentally ready for the NFL stage is unsettling. As Ian St. Clair and I discussed on the Mile High Report Radio podcast, fans want to jump on Lynch, but this falls at the feet of the men tasked with his development.
This is going to feel a lot like rehashing old news, but it needs to be said. With the Broncos collapsing under the weight of poor offensive play, and bad decision making, somehow Lynch is being kicked aside. Media members are already moving on to the 2018 draft, and the free-agent pool. How is it possible that an organization can so quickly turn its back on a No. 1 pick?
- One of the stranger stories of the week involved the Patriots bringing back Martellus Bennett after the Green Bay Packers cut him. Bennett ripped the Packers organization for the way they handled his shoulder injury.
"The Packers examined my shoulder March 10 and cleared it,” Bennett wrote on an Instagram story on Friday. “They even gave me an x-ray as well. It got worse during the season, specifically against the Cowboys so I asked to have it checked and we checked it. After a few days of contemplating to play with it or get surgery, I chose surgery. Now here we are. They tried to f— over me. Dr. McKenzie trying to cover his own ass. After trying to persuade me to play [through] a major injury and me choosing to get surgery.
Days later, Bennett is active for the Patriots.