On Sunday night, the New England Patriots took on the Denver Broncos in primetime. The Patriots came out victorious, scoring early and often for a final score of 41-16. The win moves the team to an AFC-East leading 7-2 record. Additionally, Tom Brady earned his 86th career road win, passing Peyton Manning for first all-time. Bill Belichick also tied Tom Landry for third all-time in career wins (regular and postseason), earning his 270th victory. The Broncos fell to 3-6 with the loss. Here are three week 10 New England Patriots takeaways.
Week 10 New England Patriots Takeaways
Patriots Special Teams Shines in First Half
When football fans think about the New England Patriots, they typically envision Tom Brady leading the Patriots offense to victory. That being said, this week the special teams stepped up to the plate in the first half. Making plays early, they allowed the team to put up quick points on the board.
Broncos rookie wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie gave the Patriots some help on their first drive. The Patriots found themselves punting following a three-and-out by the offense. McKenzie muffed the catch, and Patriots rookie tight end Jacob Hollister fell on the live ball. Two Rex Burkhead catches later, the Patriots put up a quick 7-0 lead over the Broncos.
The special team success continued on the Patriots next drive. Before Brady and the offense had a chance to hit the field, Dion Lewis sprinted the kickoff back 103 yards for another Patriots touchdown, bringing the lead to 14-3.
However, it did not end there. On the Broncos first drive of the second quarter, the team saw their drive stall near midfield. On the ensuing punt, Burkhead was able to break through the line and block the Riley Dixon kick. The blocked punt set the Patriots up on the Denver 30-yard line. New England was able to tack on another three points from a field goal, increasing the lead to 20-6.
Butler and Company Struggle to Stop Sanders
Despite the 25-point statement victory for the Patriots, there were still blemishes in the defense. Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders seemed simply unstoppable for the majority of the game. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was tasked with covering Sanders, struggled to make plays against him early. Sanders finished the game with five catches for 99 yards against Butler. Patriots corner Jonathan Jones allowed a 38-yard reception to Sanders as well.
The Patriots no longer have big names to shore up their front seven. Dont’a Hightower, the defensive leader for New England, is out for the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral. Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Rob Ninkovich have retired from the league. Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins Sr have been sent to opposing sidelines.
Thus, many believe the road to the Super Bowl runs through the back end of the Patriots defensive unit. Players such as Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty need to step up if this team want to make a deep run this year. Only time will tell if these players have what it takes to keep the Patriots playoff hopes alive.
Patriots Offense Shuts Down Broncos Defensive Stars
Coming into this season, many touted the Denver Broncos defense as one of the leagues best. Star corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr are an outside duo that would make any offensive coordinator cringe while game planning. Brady put pressure on the linebackers and safeties of the Broncos defense for the majority of the game. The future hall-of-famer used his tight ends and running backs to march down the field for demoralizing scoring, neutralizing the impact Talib and Harris had in the passing defense.
Rob Gronkowski was his usual self, hauling in four catches for 76 yards. Furthermore, returning Patriot Martellus Bennett finished the game with three catches for 38 yards despite being cut earlier in the week by the Green Bay Packers with a ‘failure to disclose physical condition’ designation. Even off-season acquisition Dwayne Allen got in on the fun, catching his first ball of the season, an 11-yard touchdown from Brady.
In addition, the Patriots seemed to make star linebacker Von Miller non-existent tonight. Miller finished the contest with one lone tackle. New England took advantage of the ground game with backs Lewis and Burkhead. The pair combined for 91 yards on the ground, including an eight-yard rushing touchdown for Lewis in the third quarter. The scheming of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels proved superior at the end of the day in a big road win for the Patriots.
New England will stay in Denver to practice for the week before traveling down to Mexico City for their game next Sunday. The Patriots will look to continue their win streak rolling against a struggling Oakland Raiders team. Kickoff is set for 4:25 ET.