Peyton Manning came to town on Sunday for another classic Brady vs. Manning duel
The good news: The Patriots improved to 3-2 by beating Peyton Manning once again, this time as a member of the Denver Broncos. Tom Brady played very efficiently, completing 23 of 31 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for a touchdown as well. Brady was able to manage the game and make plays when necessary, because for the second straight week the Patriots ran for over 200 yards, giving great balance to the offense. Stevan Ridley led the way again with 151 yards and a touchdown (he also had a huge fumble lost, however), and undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden looked solid again, pitching in 54 yards on the ground.
More good news: Wes Welker continues to prove that he is still a huge part of this offense, catching 13 bullets from Brady (including a career high 9 in the first half) for 104 yards, while adding his first touchdown of the season. Welker now has 3 straight games of 8 plus receptions and 100 plus yards receiving after people were trying to run him out of town the first few weeks. After watching the game you can still tell Brady has an incredible amount of trust in Welker, and looks for him on almost every play. This offense is incredibly dynamic, and will continue to just get better and better when Aaron Hernandez returns. Brandon Lloyd and Tom Brady are still working on their timing, but Lloyd has shown that he is a very valuable weapon, making a couple great catches. Lloyd was able to make a few plays on Denver’s shutdown corner Champ Bailey, even though Brady mostly stayed away from Bailey (we all know Brady still has nightmares over the 2006 AFC Divisional game against Bailey and Denver).
The bad news: The Patriots offensive line was not able to keep Von Miller and the rest of the Broncos defense out of the pocket, giving up 4 big sacks, as well as a few huge tackles for a loss. Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer were not able to finish out the game, both leaving early in the 4th quarter. Vollmer has been listed on the injury report all season with a back injury that kept him out of most of action last year as well. Mankins was seen with his calf wrapped on the sidelines, which hopefully is not worrisome seeing as how Mankins’ calf was reportedly hurting him this week in practice. Mankins missed last week’s contest against the Bills with a hip injury.
More bad news: The Patriots secondary looked extremely shaky at times, especially Devin McCourty, who still does not know that you can not face guard and defender, and more importantly, HIT THEM BEFORE THE BALL ARRIVES. McCourty made a couple awful plays Sunday afternoon, including another pass interference call in the end zone that led to a 1 yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning. McCourty has been an absolute disaster as of late, but he was not the only in the secondary making mistakes. On Denver’s first drive, Demaryius Thomas burned Sterling Moore for a big gain, but Moore was able to bail himself out by popping the ball loose and snatching it up himself. Obviously the defense is still a work in progress, but it seems as though they have been taking a few steps backwards these past few weeks.
All in all, the Patriots got a win against a potential playoff team, and more importantly, against nemesis Peyton Manning. Manning had an average first half, but really turned it on in the second half, especially the fourth quarter, finishing with 345 yards through the air with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. That being said, the secondary needs to improve, or this team will find themselves with another heartbreaking loss in the playoffs.
The Patriots will be headed to Seattle to face off against the 3-2 Seahawks. Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman could return, adding another few weapons to Tom Brady’s arsenal. We’ll have more on the injuries to Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer as the reports come out and the week ensues.