Pats @ Broncos First Half Thoughts
As the New England Patriots head to the break of their Week 10 game in Denver, against the Broncos, with a 27-9 lead, here are some first half thoughts:
Winning the Special Teams Battle- The Pats have not just won the special teams battle so far; they've dominated it. After going three-and-out on their first series of the game, the Pats got a second chance as Denver punt returner Isaiah Mckenzie fumbled the ball with gunner Jon Jones barreling down on him. New England regained possession and, two plays later, punched the ball into the end zone for their first score. From there, the Pats continued their demolition of Denver's special teams units, this time picking on the Bronco's kick off coverage unit. After an ill-advised decision to kick the ball short, Pats running back Dion Lewis took the ball from three yards deep in the end zone all the way up the left sideline for a 103-yard touchdown return. Things got worse for Denver in the second quarter, as New England running back Rex Burkhead shot through the middle of the line on a Bronco punt to lay out and block the kick. The Pats regained possession, after the block, and added three points on a field goal on the subsequent drive. So far, that's been the huge difference in the game, with New England scoring 17 points off the Denver special teams miscues.
Missing In The Red Zone- The Pats have scored a lot in the first two quarters, but they've also continued their red zone struggles so far. On four first half red zone trips the Pats scored just two touchdowns. Now, they did come away with points on each trip, but another two drives stalled inside the opponent's 10-yard line and forced to end in field goals is just not good enough. The Pats have struggled all season long in both short yardage and red zone opportunities and it hasn't cost them yet, but, if they can't figure those issues out soon, they'll eventually find a team that will make them pay for their failure to get in the end zone.
The Only Guy- The only guy who seems to have shown up to play football for Denver tonight is wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. While the rest of his team has looked less than competent for most of the night, Sanders has caught five of the seven balls thrown his way for 114 yards. The only two balls thrown to him that he didn't catch were all on quarterback Brock Osweiler, too. Osweiler, who hooked up with Sanders for all but 14 of his 128 first half passing yards overthrew the wide out badly on his only two incomplete targets.
Marty B Is Back- Veteran tight end Martellus Bennett, who returned to the Pats after being picked up on waivers this week, was back on the field for the Pats in the first half. Bennett was targeted twice in the first half, making two catches for 32 yards. He did spent a prolong stint in the new blue medical tent, in the second quarter, but appears to be good to go again.
Allen Joins The Party- Sitting on the hot seat due to the return of Bennett and his inability to catch a ball so far this season, tight end Dwayne Allen has officially joined the party. On the team's final play of the first half, Allen fought off a defensive hold to reel in his first catch as a Patriot. the catch went for an 11-yard score.
Keeping Brady Clean- So far, it has been LaAdrian Waddle exclusively stepping in for injured right tackle Marcus Cannon, along the New England line. Waddle and his teammates have done a solid job so far stepping up to the challenge that is Denver's vaunted pass rush.
Backs Mixing It Up- As expected, the New England backfield is having a big day, so far tonight. Through two quarters, the Pats' big three of James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis have combined for 17 touches for 89 yards and a score offensively. Lewis and Burkhead have also shown up on special teams with a 103-yard kick return TD and a blocked punt respectively.