By Jack Sitt
For the 13th time in their NFL careers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady took the field Sunday as opposing quarterbacks. Unfortunately for Peyton, meeting number 13 did not turn out to be too lucky.
The Broncos fumbled the ball three times in a 31-21 loss to the Patriots. As usual, Peyton and Brady did not disappoint with their performances, but in the end, Peyton did not have the supporting cast that he needed to win this one.
The Patriots played 2 safeties back the entire game on defense. This allowed Peyton to complete short passes to his receivers. The underneath routes resulted in aggressive safety play from the Patriots, which enabled Peyton to complete a few long balls to Demaryius Thomas throughout the course of the game. Peyton completed over 70 percent of his passes for 345 yards.
He played well; the problem was the lack of support he received from the players around him. During their first possession of the game, Thomas fumbled after catching a deep ball. On another play, Rob Ninkovich was able to force a fumble on Peyton after getting in unblocked on a bull rush. Late in the game, Willis Mcgahee hurt the team on multiple occasions.
He dropped a pass on a critical 4th and one, and he also fumbled in the red zone on the last possession of the game for the Denver. The Broncos cannot expect to win when they have these types of plays, even with number 18 at quarterback. In addition to their offensive problems, the efficiency of the Pats offense didn’t exactly help their cause either.
The Patriots offense looked methodical against the Broncos. The Pats have continued to have success running the fast pace offense they have used in years past. The difference is that this year they are no huddling into run plays rather then pass plays. The Pats rushed for 251 yards this game, in large part due to this new no huddle offense.
In the passing game, Brady was efficient. Brady zipped the ball to his receivers over the middle of the field the entire game. Slot receiver Wes Welker was often matched up with nickel cornerback Chris Harris, and he was occasionally matched up with a linebacker or a safety.
None of these defenders are any match for Welker. He recorded 9 receptions in the first half, and 13 receptions in the game. This offense is close to unstoppable right now. If you play a nickel defense they will run the ball on you, and if you don’t play nickel they will hit Welker in the slot who will have a mismatch.
In the end, the Broncos did not receive many offensive possessions because of how well the Patriots performed while running the ball. When you then consider the fact that they fumbled the ball on three of those possessions and turned the ball over on downs once, they made it almost impossible for themselves to win. I still expect the Broncos to be fine going forward. They won’t fumble three times every game, and they definitely won’t be seeing the Patriots again during the regular season.