The tone of this game was set pretty early on. After the Patriots offense went three and out on their first offensive drive, it looked as though the Broncos were going to get off to a quick start. However, on the ensuing punt, Broncos wide receiver, Isaiah McKenzie whiffed on the return setting the Patriots with a very short field. Two plays later, Tom Brady found Rex Burkhead for the 14-yard touchdown and the Patriots were off to the races.
Special teams continued to plague the Broncos throughout the night. After matching the Patriots’ (7-2) touchdown with a field goal, running back Dion Lewis took the kickoff 103 yards for the touchdown. The rout was on as the Patriots rolled to their fifth win in a row, a 41-16 victory in hostile Denver.
In addition to catching the first of three Brady touchdowns on the night, Burkhead was instrumental in setting the Patriots up for their second offensive score. With the lead now 17-6, the Patriots forced a Denver punt deep in their own territory, however, Burkhead broke through the line to blocked the punt, once again setting the Patriots up with great field position. The turnover led to another field goal for the Patriots.
Burkhead ended the with 27 receiving yards on three receptions. He added 36 yards on the ground. Dion Lewis led the backs with 55 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown in the win on top of the 103-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
The Patriots added a touchdown to close out the half to take a 27-9 lead into the break. It didn’t get much better for the Broncos. The second half saw poor offensive execution from the Broncos and Brock Osweiler, including a Patrick Chung interception that helped set up Brady’s third touchdown pass.
The Patriots defense once again resembled the unit that we saw in October. The return of Stephon Gilmore was long overdue as he locked down Broncos receiver, Demaryius Thomas for most of the night. At times, Butler struggled to contain Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders hauled in six for 137 yards. Most of which came against Butler, however, the big picture is that the defense is again starting to resemble a championship unit.
In addition to the special team’s issues, the Broncos were once again unable to handle the heavy doses of tight ends and runnings backs the Patriots threw at them. Rob Gronkowski led the team in receiving with four catches for 74 yards. Martellus Bennett, in his return to New England, hauled in three catches on three targets for 38 yards.
However, the highlight is quite obviously, Dwayne Allen’s first catch as a Patriot. It just so happens it went for six and was Brady’s second touchdown of the night. Allen’s touchdown reception was the 68th different receiver to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, inching him closer to Vinny Testaverde’s record of 70.
Speaking of Brady, who says he struggles in Denver? Brady was phenomenal, completing passes to nine different receivers, as he went 25-of-34 for 266 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, Brady sits with 19 touchdowns and only a pair of interceptions through nine games. The win for Brady was his 86th career win on the road, a new NFL record as he broke a tie with former Bronco and Colt, Peyton Manning. The win, the 270th of his career, moves coach Belichick into a tie for third place all-time with Tom Landry.
The Patriots remain in a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers with the best record in the AFC. The two teams square off in just a few weeks in Pittsburgh. In the meantime, the Patriots will now turn their attention to the Oakland Raiders as they are set to square off in Mexico City in search of their 13th straight win on the road.
– Ian Glendon is the National Editor for cover32 and the Managing Editor for cover32/Patriots. He covers the NFL and New England Patriots. Like and follow on Follow @iglen31 Follow @cover32_NE and Facebook.