Week 9 – Denver @ New England: Brady wins this round

When I woke up on Monday morning, one of the first things I did was check my Twitter feed for all the NFL news. The early games were finishing up so I quickly scanned through the various scores (the Miami beatdown of San Diego had me surprised), as well as any other news (Nick Foles was hurt, enter the one and only Mark Sanchez).

In the midst of it all though there were images that kept appearing on my feed. It depicted snow inside a stadium that looked awfully familiar.

Yes, days of reports that the weather would be turning ugly in the northeastern United States had come true.

As a Patriots fan, I am obviously going to fall into the Tom Brady camp in the whole “who is a better quarterback” debate between him and Peyton Manning. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect the hell out of the Broncos quarterback.

What he has been able to achieve over his career has been impressive. And more recently, his succcess with the Broncos, at his age and especially after his career looked in serious jeopardy just three years ago, has been nothing short of amazing.

But if there is one knock on Manning (and it is something us Pats fans are all to keen to remind everyone of every chance we get) it is that he doesn’t cope well with cold weather. At the start of this season, he had a career record of 8-11 in outdoor temperatures below 40 degrees fahrenheit. In those games he has thrown 30 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. For a player so associated with winning, it is a glaring statistic.

So photos of a chilly Gillette Stadium were just what us Patriots fans wanted to see as we got ready to watch Brady v Manning #16, even if the snow had cleared by the time the game actually started.

At first it looked like it was all for nothing anyway. Manning seemed unaffected. The Patriots scored the first points, via a field goal, but otherwise were struggling to move the ball a significant distance. The Broncos quarterback, on the other hand, made a couple of nice throws to Emmanuel Sanders and got the first touchdown through a Ronnie Hillman 1-yard run.

A second-quarter interception thrown by Manning changed the momentum. All of a sudden, all that talk about Peyton and the cold weather began to resurface. Tom Brady took full advantage with a quick touchdown pass to Julian Edelman.

The real game-changer though was an 81-yard punt return from Edelman not long afterwards. The Broncos botched the snap but still got the punt away. Edelman somehow managed to evade tackers (helped a little bit by a Tim Wright block that should have been called back) and got the ball into the end zone. The crowd roared their approval and the Patriots had the upper hand.

The Broncos missed a field goal, kicking with the wind, from 41 yards out. Brandon McManus’ kick making the sweetest “doink” sound a Pats fan will ever hear. That miss would prove crucial as it gave the Broncos reason to doubt their rookie kicker for the rest of the game in such tough conditions, and instead try for more 4th down attempts.

Brady was now taking control. I wrote about this last week, but having Rob Gronkowski healthy has transformed the New England offense. Not only does Brady frequently connect with the big guy, but his presence forces defenders to pay extra attention to him, and it can leave others open. Edelman, Brandon LaFell and even Danny Amendola are benefitting from this.

And the crowd was right behind their quarterback. As the Patriots piled on the score, I could hear the chants on TV of “Brady, Brady, Brady”, and even “Brady’s Better! Brady’s Better!” once the game was beyond doubt (us Pats fans do take the rivalry a bit seriously).

The icing on the cake came at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Brady threw a ball in the direction of Rob Gronkowski. It was a little high, but for Gronk it was no trouble. He pulled it in with one hand, producing one of the most amazing catches you will ever see. He landed just short of the end zone and the Patriots tried to overrule the call that he was down by contact. Even though it was upheld, Brady still managed to find Gronk in the end zone on the next play for a well deserved score.

All up, it was a really good day for the New England fanbase. Tom Brady took the honors in the battle between his biggest rival, with four touchdown passes and 333 yards.

But Manning was not disgraced. He threw two touchdowns of his own and had 438 yards. Even so, there was a sense that when the game was there to be won, Peyton did not play at his best. The 2nd quarter interception he gave up was crucial, and many of his other throws were off. The Patriots defense played well against him.

A 43-21 win to New England puts them at 7-2 and they’re currently the top seed in the AFC. They will need to keep it that way. The best chance they will have of beating Denver in the playoffs, is to have that game played at home in Foxborough. In cold, blustery January weather. Just the way Manning doesn’t like it.

Nov 2
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA (68,756) 

Denver 7 0 14 0 – 21
New England 
3 24 10 6 – 43

Passing: Peyton Manning (DEN), 438 yds, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s
Rushing: Jonas Gray (NE), 12 car, 33 yds
Receiving: Emmanuel Sanders (DEN), 10 rec, 151 yds
Pigskin Almanac “11-5” award: Tom Brady (NE)

About

Sam Wilkinson lives in Melbourne, Australia. His appreciation for the New England Patriots sees him awake at some ridiculous hours just to catch their game. Like all Pats fans, he refuses to admit that one day Tom Brady will get old and have to retire.

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