I promise I’m not being bitter, but maybe a little bit of a homer when I say the refs had a hand in the loss last night, but it is true.
The Patriots were without Edelman, Amendola, and Collins for the entire game and Gronk at the end of the fourth and were without Hightower for the entire second half and Denver still needed overtime to win. That alone should give the Pats plenty of confidence if they play Denver again and shows just how good this team and Brady is right now, so imagine them healthy.
This loss is just the first of the season and the Pats still have a two game lead for the number one seed overall and an easy schedule the rest of the way if key players get healthy.
The game played out like a bad scene from a movie and as annoying as nails on a chalk board as the refs were horrible for the second straight week against the Patriots. The Patriots could have run a lot of clock when Brady hit Martin for a 51 yard gain, but the refs threw a flag on Tre Jackson for holding, an iffy call. They also called OPI on Gronk which also brought back a big play that could have run some clock on the next series.
Those calls were killers, but the play that started the drive which brought the Broncos back into the game in the fourth and the comeback by the Broncos was set up by a Chris Harper muffed punt. He tried to catch the ball and fumbled it away right to Denver, setting them up in good field position early in the fourth when the Pats were up 21-7. The Pats could have won, but this play changed everything. Harper should have let the punt go over his head and not try to make a play. Harper probably won’t play much anymore after last night, he didn’t catch any passes and fumbled a punt away. Keshawn Martin will play a lot more as the season goes on.
CJ Anderson and the Broncos made the most of the field position after the muffed punt, scoring to bring the game to 21-14. CJ Anderson stretched the run to the left and got around the Pats defense and some bad tackling for the score. The stretch runs and Anderson were a problem for the Patriots all night.
The next series featured two flags on the offensive side of the Patriots, one being the Martin play, which could have set up maybe a game sealing touchdown or field goal. No clock was being wasted by the Pats thanks to flags, giving Denver the ball back and behind their ground game, kicked a field goal.
The Patriots were trying to waste away the clock with five minutes left, but the Gronk OPI was called and it killed the drive. The Broncos did nothing with the ball, but the Pats offense couldn’t waste too much clock again with another try, giving Denver another chance to take the lead. Gronk was hurt on that series by the Patriots. Brady threw a pass to Gronk who jumped up for the attempted catch and took a shot to the knee by safety Stewart and landed in obvious pain. He was carted off the field, taking the wind out of the Patriots on a very cold night.
Brock hit Thomas for a huge play, 36 yards, and that set them up in business at the 47 yard line. On that drive, the Pats had Brock sacked, which would have made it 3rd and goal from the 19 but the refs called a hold on Chung which should have never been called. It gave the Broncos a fresh set of downs just yards away from the end zone, so Osweiler hit Caldwell for a four yard touchdown, a great play by the young QB.
The Pats were down 24-21 after the Brock to Caldwell play, so Brady attempted to come back and tie the game with less than a minute, something he accomplished, but not easily and not because the refs helped. The Broncos had a player down on the field, who later walked off, and the refs announced the clock had stopped and to reset the play clock, but the Pats assumed the clock would not run, so Brady took his time, but the clock was running. The pass fell incomplete, leaving only 10 seconds left at Denver’s 48 yard line. Brady regrouped and found LaFell for a 14 yard gain, giving Gostkowski a chance at a 47 yard field goal. As usual, Gostkowski sent it right down the middle. Over time.
In overtime the Pats punted after pressure continued to get to Brady, but don’t worry, no flag for the Broncos holding on LaFell, so Broncos get the ball and CJ Anderson broke away for a 48 yard touchdown run. Game over.
Brady screamed at the refs often in the fourth to the point I thought he might get flagged but he never did. Belichick even gave a colorful remark to the refs in the fourth after the clock mishap. It really felt like the fix was in and Roger Goodell did not want the Patriots to go undefeated. Again, it felt like that, not saying it was. Also, Denver is a dirty team that much I realized last night. Von Miller took a very late shot on Tom Brady when he was already on the ground, the refs did call that, but Gronk took a lot of knee shots in the game, but no calls there. So, between the refs and no Gronk, Hightower, Collins, Edelman, and Amendola it was tough sledding for the Patriots last night, but a great effort by the team that you have to be proud of them.
Tom Brady threw 3 touchdowns and over 200 yards, and you have to be impressed considering he missed so many players he always threw too. He found Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, and Brandon Bolden for touchdowns. On the first drive of the game, he found Gronk for a 23 yard score. Gronk broke free from tackles. He hit Chandler for a beautiful 9 yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. He would find Bolden for a 63 yard touchdown to start the fourth. Bolden broke away from a linebacker and avoided bad tackling for the score.
Denver found a running back last night in CJ Anderson, who gave the Patriots fits. The Broncos offense ran so well when they could run the ball and it was the cutbacks the Patriots could not stop almost all night and especially in the 2nd half. Brock Osweiler can run Gary Kubiak’s offense, that is clear but he does take way too many sacks.
Things were stacked against the Patriots, but their run defense had a lot to do with this loss and Chris Harper’s hands.
QB Tom Brady: 23/42 for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns.
RB Brandon Bolden: 4 rushing attempts for 11 yards. 4 receptions for 84 yards and 1 touchdown.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 6 receptions for 88 yards and 1 touchdown.
TE Scott Chanderl: 5 receptions for 58 yards and 1 touchdown.
LB Jonathan Freeny: 12 tackles and 1 sack.
DE Rob Ninkovich: 5 tackles and 1 sack.
Game MVP: RB Brandon Bolden.
James White could not get it done last night, but Brandon Bolden sure did. He had a lot to do with the success of the offense.