DENVER — The Patriots suffered a downer of a defeat to Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos, blowing a 17-7 halftime lead to lose 20-17 in overtime. The loss in the Mile High city left the team feeling low, but there were some uplifting performances in defeat, as well as a few disappointing ones.
With the caveat that it’s always dangerous to make evaluations right after a game without reviewing the tape, here are the ups and downs from Denver.
1. Jerod Mayo — Mayo came back from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee that had sidelined him the last three games and made an immediate impact. He played almost the entire game and forced a Knowshon Moreno fumble that led to points. He also stopped Brandon Marshall from getting a first down on third and 2, closing quickly and making a strong tackle, one of his six on the day.
2. Sammy Morris — With Fred Taylor out after ankle surgery, Morris picked up the slack. He averaged 4 yards per carry (17 for 68) and finished with 107 total yards when you factor in his three catches for 39 yards. On New England’s first possession, Morris gained 35 yards on a screen pass that moved the ball from the 50 to the Denver 15, setting up the Patriots’ first touchdown.
3. Tully Banta-Cain — If the Patriots had won, some of the big plays Banta-Cain made would have been looked upon as crucial. He stuffed Moreno for a 3-yard loss on third and 3 from the Patriots’ 39 late in the fourth quarter and helped send the game to overtime by sacking Kyle Orton on third and 9 from the Patriots 44 with under 20 seconds left in the game.
4. Rob Ninkovich — Ninkovich made a case for more regular playing time. He had a second-quarter sack of Orton and also broke through to bat an Orton pass up in the air that could have been intercepted.
1. Brandon Meriweather — Meriweather had six tackles, but he didn’t have the impact on the game he had last week against Baltimore. He got dragged in the third quarter on a Daniel Graham reception, and in the fourth quarter picked up a taunting penalty after he flew in to keep Eddie Royal from catching a pass, which helped set up the tying score. The penalty was a tough call, but Meriweather shouldn’t have given the referee a chance to even call it by lingering over Royal and gesturing.
2. Joey Galloway — Two weeks in a row as a healthy scratch makes it hard to believe that the Patriots have long-term plans for Galloway. Maybe they do, but if they believed he could help the offense he would have been active.
3. Logan Mankins — Mankins picked up a foolish unnecessary roughness penalty in the second quarter on the end of a 3-yard run by Kevin Faulk, barreling into Wesley Woodward from behind when the play was all but over. Mankins was also beaten by Vonnie Holliday on the strip-sack of Tom Brady with under two minutes to go, which turned out to be the Patriots’ last best chance to win the game.
4. Third-down conversion — The Patriots were 0 for 6 converting third downs in the second half. After the game, Brady talked about a lack of execution and squandering opportunities. One play that really stood out was third and 3 from the Denver 28 with just over four minutes left in the fourth. Wes Welker got a free release and was open down the seam, but Brady expected him to sit down on his route, and Welker, realizing he was free, kept running. It could have been a first down. It could have been a touchdown. Instead it was another failed third down. In all the Patriots were 5 of 14 on third down.