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The Patriots had a very good team effort in Sunday’s 31-21 victory over the Broncos.
It wasn’t perfect in all three phases — and with some coaching decisions — but it was extremely well done.
A lot of attention has been focused on the fast-break, no-huddle offense, and it’s certainly deserving. The players and all the offensive coaches deserve a lot of credit for getting it ready to unleash against a quality opponent.
And it was certainly a big reason the Patriots built a 31-7 lead. The Broncos didn’t know what hit them, and at times couldn’t even get lined up correctly.
But expect the Patriots to tweak how they use it, because the no-huddle was likely a big reason they went scoreless in the final 19:42 of the game and nearly allowed the Broncos to mount a comeback.
Some of the ineffectiveness had to do with the Patriots taking a more conservative approach to burn clock and the Broncos’ defense being aggressive.
But the Patriots also looked very tired in the final quarter-plus of the game as the first-half pace took a self-inflicted toll.
Of the final 22 plays the Patriots ran before the kneel-downs, 10 went for 1 yard or less, including three sacks, two fumbles (one lost), a penalty, and a near-interception. That’s 45.5 percent.
The Patriots had just 10 such negative plays in the first 72 plays they ran (13.9 percent).
It started with 1:08 left in the third quarter when guard Logan Mankins and center Ryan Wendell had dead legs trying to get out on a first-down screen to Brandon Bolden that went for no gain.
After two first downs, tight end Rob Gronkowski was easily tossed aside by Von Miller, who took down Bolden for a 3-yard loss.
On second down, Wendell was beaten for a coverage sack of Tom Brady.
And then on third down, Sebastian Vollmer looked like he barely got out of his stance on a Miller sack.
The Patriots ran eight plays on that drive. Five went for zero yards or less (including a penalty against Gronkowski).
The Patriots smartly replaced Mankins on the next series, and they also added Nick McDonald as a third tight end to give more oomph to a tired blocking scheme.
Vollmer was replaced by Marcus Cannon on the following series after limping off with a right leg injury.
So the Patriots were on top of it, but it’s something to monitor as the offense evolves. Expect them to pick and choose their spots a little bit more.
The positional ratings against the Broncos:
Quarterback (rating: 4.5 out of 5)
On passing alone, this was a solid performance by Brady, not spectacular. But when you factor in all that he had to manage with the no-huddle, checks and calls, it was outstanding. Brady was particularly adept at sensing a blitz and getting rid of the ball. The Broncos blitzed Brady a lot — 15 of his 39 dropbacks (38.5 percent), including penalties — yet he got rid of the ball against the blitz in an average of 1.97 seconds. That means it had no chance of getting home. That said, of the 11 quarterback pressures (four sacks, four hurries, three knockdowns), Brady was responsible for nearly a quarter (2.5, including 1.5 sacks). That first sack on third down to open the second half was definitely on Brady. Against a three-man rush and good protection, Brady ducked and was taken down by Miller in 4.45 seconds. Brady also shared some of the blame with Wendell on the sack on second and 13 early in the fourth. Brady was hurried in 3.09 seconds, which should have been enough time to dump it off underneath to Wes Welker . . . Just a terrific throw by Brady to Brandon Lloyd ahead of the crashing safety to the 1-yard line before Shane Vereen’s touchdown made it 14-7 . . . On the opening touchdown, Brady faked not once (run) but twice (slant to Lloyd) before coming back to Welker, who faked a run block himself to lull slot corner Chris Harris to sleep. Terrific design by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and flawless execution. They must have repped that one a lot in practice.
Running backs (3 out of 5)
Ridley’s fumble in a second straight game (think he ever wants to see Buffalo and Denver back-to-back again?) had a lot of people concerned, but just as concerning was him being on a different page than the rest of the offense on first and 10 at the Denver 17 with 7:06 left in the third quarter. Ridley ran a wheel route on an eventual overthrow to Lloyd in the end zone. Problem was, every other person on offense save Lloyd (running a clear out) was run blocking. Looked like it was supposed to be a gun trap over left guard . . . Bolden broke three tackles for a total of 20 yards, but he also was responsible for a knockdown of Brady after missing a blitz pickup that was negated by penalty . . . Two huge third-down conversions by Danny Woodhead on a run (19 yards) and pass (25 yards) . . . Patriots had the Broncos completely outflanked — four defenders to the left of center compared with five Patriots — on the toss touchdown to Ridley to make it 31-7. Lloyd’s block against Keith Brooking was also key.Continued...