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Patriots 41, Broncos 23: Postgame report

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  December 18, 2011 10:32 PM

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DENVER – After a few horrific moments for the Patriots defense in the first quarter, the team settled down and delivered a fairly impressive 41-23 victory over the Broncos at Sports Authority Field.

Let’s take a quick look back:

WHY DID THE PATRIOTS WIN?

The Patriots got three Broncos turnovers – two of which were forced errors by the defense – in the second quarter and outscored the Broncos, 20-3, in the period to take control of the game. From there, the offense, behind another stellar game from Tom Brady, and the defense did their jobs to finish off the game.

INJURY REPORT

  • DE Andre Carter (quad) did not return after being carted off. He will need surgery and will likely miss the rest of the season.
  • CB Kyle Arrington (leg) returned.
  • G Brian Waters (ankle) returned.
THREE THINGS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT
  1. This offense is pretty good: Everybody talked about how good the Broncos defense was coming into this game, forgetting that they really haven’t played anybody near the caliber of Brady. He ended up passing for 320 yards and two scores.
  2. More than Gronk and Welker: If I told you before the game that Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker would combine for eight catches, 94 yards, and zero touchdowns, you would have thought the Patriots would get killed. And they scored a season-high 41 points. Aaron Hernandez was obviously huge, but contributions offensively came from all over the place.
  3. Defense rebounded: The first quarter was terrible. No two ways about it. Give the defense credit – and they gave a lot to Matt Patricia for changing the scheme – for making adjustments and playing better. Easy to keep the ball rolling downhill on the road, but they stopped it and pushed it the other way.

THREE THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT

  1. Andre Carter’s injury: It looks like he’s going to be out for the season and that would be a huge loss. Not only does he lead the team in sacks and pressures by a good margin, he’s been exceptional playing the run all season no matter what technique he’s playing. Anderson did a great job today but the Patriots are going to have to make some scheme adjustments with this. I could see a lot more 3-4 from here on out. Maybe Anderson plays full-time at OLB, but maybe he doesn’t.
  2. Inside linebackers:They got it fixed as the game went along – partially because the score got tilted – but all of the inside backers had trouble for the second straight game fitting correctly in the run. Brandon Spikes can’t get back quick enough. This could be a big problem in the postseason against better teams.
  3. Zone coverages:: Tim Tebow was able to throw pretty well against this team – third and 18 anyone? – and he’s not even an average quarterback. The Patriots need to keep improving here.

THREE STARS

  1. QB Tom Brady: He continued his strong run of play with an outstanding 23-of-34, 320-yard performance against a very active defense. Didn’t even sweat that Welker and Gronkowski were clamped down on. Brady used his whole arsenal today and that will be beneficial.
  2. TE Aaron Hernandez: With so much attention being paid to others, he was able to set career highs with nine catches, 129 yards and added a touchdown. You had a feeling this was coming with Deion Branch out, and Hernandez is almost impossible to cover in man coverage.
  3. OLB Mark Anderson: Carter went out and Anderson picked up the play-making throne with two sacks and a crucial forced fumble and recovery in the second quarter. Needless to say, the Patriots are going to need a lot more of that.

UP NEXT

Miami Dolphins (5-9), 1 p.m. Saturday, Gillette Stadium.

Result: Reggie Bush ran for a career-high 203 yards as the Dolphins beat the Bills, 30-23, to win for the fifth time in seven games.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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