Jerry reviews the Patriots’ loss in the AFC Title Game against the Denver Broncos.
If you had told me before the AFC Championship game started that you could guarantee that the Broncos were going to be “held” to 26 points, I probably would have started my plans for a Super Bowl Party. After all, I had predicted that Denver would score 31 points in a losing effort, so that would have sounded very positive to me. What I did not anticipate was that the Patriots offense, after three strong offensive showings, would be held to just 16 points. So, what did I get wrong? What factors did I fail to take into account?
MY EXCUSES: THING ONE
Well, right off the bat, I can think of three things. Thing number one was the weather; there wasn’t any. It was chilly and snowy here in New England, where the game would have been played if Gosktowski had hit that field goal against the Dolphins in Week 15. That’s exactly the kind of weather that the Patriots flourish in, and with which Peyton Manning struggles. Seriously, 60 degree weather in Denver, in January? Don’t tell me there’s no global warming. I am not a doctor, nor have I played one on TV, but I’m sure that Manning’s nerve problem is made more of an issue in the frigid temperatures, making it considerably more difficult for him to maintain his “touch” on the ball.
In addition to the weather being a hometown factor, I also think the officiating would have been as well. I have to believe that either both Wes Welker and Michael Hoomanawanui are called for illegal picks, or neither is, if the game is played in Foxboro. That series of call/non-calls was important to the outcome, as was Welker’s cheap shot on Talib. By the way, I am not alone in thinking it was a cheap shot, as I have heard a couple of corner backs criticize the league for not protecting defenseless CBs in the way they do receivers. All of this is just my way of saying that I believe that location was my second overlooked factor. Denver, along with Miami, has been a difficult place for the Pats to win, and that remains true.
Finally, I failed to take into account, the important role TE Rob Gronkowski(7 catches for 90 yards and a TD) played in their week 12 win against the Broncos. His presence certainly would have made a significant difference in the championship game, especially on some of those 4th down efforts. I think I forgot to figure him in because the Pats had begun to look effective on offense without him. That obviously was not the case this time around.
Having said all that, the real key to the loss was likely Tom Brady‘s overthrow of a wide open Julian Edelman early in the second quarter, when the game was very much within reach. I’d have to go back and look at the tape, but I believe it was 10-0 at the time, and a quick and easy 7 points would have changed the confidence levels of both the Pats offensive, and probably more importantly, the Denver “D”. Even if nothing else changed, the Pats would have potentially gone into the late stages of the contest down 26-24, as they would not have had the need to try for a 2 point conversion, and once again be within a field goal of completing a come from behind victory. Obviously we will never know, as Brady wasn’t particularly close, nor did it feel like the Pats were for most of the rest of the game.
As tough as this game was to take, it likely was better to watch it during the AFC Championship than it would have been to watch at the Super Bowl. I know I’ve been saying all season that I liked their chances in a cold weather game, and along with the rest of Patriots Nation have trust in the Belichick/Brady combination and their ability to be competitive, but Seattle scares me. With a mobile quarterback and a strong pass rush that eats up stationary QBs, they posses two elements that troubled the Pats in the regular season. You throw in a very strong secondary, and you understand why they scare me and why I expect they will win in New York. I heard one early prediction that picked the Seahawks to pull out a 17-14 victory, reasoning that Seattle’s offense would struggle as well. My official guess is that their defense will force at least two Manning turnovers that will result in 10 points, and a 27-14 win.
Not much left now but to say…stay tuned.
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