The New England Patriots were certainly expected to lose to the Denver Broncos in Denver, but nobody could have seen this coming. Not only did the Patriots suffer a loss by more than one possession for the first time all season, but the 26-16 score was not indicative of how close the game was as the Broncos played a significantly better game.
Part of this was due to lack of talent. When Aqib Talib went down with injuries to his ribs and knee, it forced Matt Patricia to change all of his matchups. One of those changes involved Alfonzo Dennard switching to Demaryius Thomas. Dennard has played well this season, but there was no way that he could have covered Thomas.
So why did Patrica not choose to bracket Thomas? Most defensive coordinators tend to either bracket or double-team the best opposing pass catcher. Yet even after Dennard was burned repeatedly, Patricia decided to keep him on Thomas.
One could argue that the presence of Julius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker caused Patricia to go man across the board. It is a fair argument, but Patricia had to take a chance somewhere. He should have trusted Logan Ryan to handle Decker and Kyle Arrington to handle Welker, while Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins split time with Julius Thomas.
Speaking of inside linebackers like Hightower and Collins, why weren’t they in the middle of the field? As the announcers pointed out numerous times, Peyton Manning would often check into running plays because he saw one or less inside linebackers in the middle. After seeing his defenders get gashed by that type of run numerous times, Patricia should have kept his two inside linebackers behind his defensive linemen.
Those were the two main problems with the defense in this game. While many people expected the Patriots’ offense to be successful, it was not plausible to hope for much more than 20 points. The defense needed to step up, but it did not.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.