Thanks to the NFL constantly putting the Denver Broncos on the road when they face the New England Patriots in the regular season, Tom Brady had another chance to grab a win over Peyton Manning and his team, having another fantastic game when the sight set on both quarterbacks, leading the surging Pats to a 43-21 win, tying the Broncos for the best record in the AFC.
Brady did throw one interception, but he was also finding targets for touchdowns left and right, throwing four of them, including completing nine passes to Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman each, with the two players also grabbing a touchdown pass. Brady threw for 333 yards, completing 33-of-53 passes. He didn’t get much help from the running game, but on a day like this, only 66 yards on 25 carries didn’t really matter.
Manning was intercepted twice which made his 438 passing yards and two touchdowns seem quite meaningless. The Broncos did take a 7-3 lead in the first quarter after a touchdown run by Ronnie Hillman, but were completely run over by the Patriots in the second quarter, losing in it 24-0. There was no return from that low, with the Broncos completely giving up on trying to run the ball, getting just 43 yards on 17 carries.
It’s incredible to see how the season has progressed for the Patriots and especially Brady, who was completing only 46.2% of his attempts when targeting Gronkowski through the first four games, but after completing 9-of-10 passes to the tight end in the win over Denver, he is now at 75% in the games since losing to Kansas City. Gronkowski caught nine passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, his 14th game since 2010 with at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, four more than any other tight end during that period.
While Peyton Manning was struggling with his deep passes, completing just 7-of-18 on throws traveling more than 15 yards downfield, Brady has made a real jump in that category as well. He was 7-of-32 for 184 yards and two interceptions on such throws through the first four weeks of the season, but has completing 63.2% of these passes over the last five games, the best ratio on deep throws in the NFL, throwing for 585 yards.
Maybe it’s about protection, more than anything. Brady has time to throw the ball, and suddenly his release isn’t rushed. No more overthrowing, and no more looking like someone first and foremost trying to avoid the sack. He was sacked nine times on 146 dropbacks through the first four weeks, but has been sacked just five times in the last five games, occurring only on 2.4% of his dropbacks compared to the 6.2% of before.
The New England Patriots keep getting to play the Denver Broncos at home. Some big NFL conspiracy? Probably not, although it should be questions. But it still doesn’t explain the kind of dominance shown in a win that was defined by its second quarter, as the Broncos’ offense, almost unstoppable up to this point this season, was held to 0 points while the Patriots got away with anything they tried, as Bill Belichick decided he’ll be winning this game by throwing on almost every play.
Suddenly, the Patriots look as good as anyone in the AFC on a ride of five consecutive wins and Tom Brady playing as good as any other quarterback in the NFL. The Broncos won’t be too rattled by this loss, although it showed a problem in their ability to hurry a quarterback and overall defend against the pass. The important thing for them is to make sure that they don’t have too many slip ups in what remains of this season, because visiting Foxboro again doesn’t sound like the ideal way to succeed in the playoffs.