Tale Of The Tape: Denver Broncos At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Broncos are coming off an important home win over the Chiefs, but they have little time to enjoy it because they have to travel across the country to play a sharp Patriots team. Peyton Manning was on top of his game against the Chiefs and he will have to stay sharp against a New England defense that is not as talented as Kansas City, but they can be difficult to solve.After a slow start this season, Tom Brady has started to throw the ball quite a bit better. He is spreading the ball out to Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski. When Brady has an array of weapons, he can be very difficult to stop. He is accurate and clever and he loves the challenge of playing against Manning, his longtime rival.
- OffenseThe Broncos get a lift from Knowshon Moreno every game because he runs hard and gets everything out of each of his runs. The key to Denver’s offense is the timing Manning has with his wide receivers. Eric Decker is valuable all over the field and Demaryius Thomas is a deep threat with dependable hands. Former Patriot Wes Welker suffered a concussion against the Chiefs and he may not be able to play.The Patriots get decent production from the running game, but Stevan Ridley had a costly fumble against Carolina and he could be benched in favor of LeGarrette Blount. Gronkowski is the key to the Patriots’ offense. His return to the offense has given the Patriots a significant lift. Amendola is quick and knows how to get open but he has a hard time staying healthy.
- DefenseThe Broncos will give up yards and they rank 23rd in that category, but they tend to stiffen when opponents get into scoring territory. The Broncos depend on linebacker Danny Trevathan for his hard hitting as he leads the team with 81 tackles, and he also has 11 passes defensed and three interceptions. Defensive end Shaun Phillips has a team-high 9.0 sacks.The Patriots have been forced to scramble on defense after losing nose tackle Vince Wilfork and outside linebacker Jerod Mayo to injuries. The Patriots rank 20th in yards allowed, but they got a boost in Week 11 from the return of cornerback Aqib Talib, who is a very solid cover corner. Defensive end Chandler Jones has become the Patriots best pass rusher.
- Special TeamsThe Broncos have had a few issues in punt and kickoff coverage, but they have a big advantage in differential because of the presence of explosive Trindon Holliday, who has returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns. Placekicker Matt Prater has made 14-of-14 FG attempts.The Patriots do an outstanding job at kickoff and punt coverage. Edelman has excellent quickness and instincts and he has the ability to turn a game around with a big return. Stephen Gostkowski is a very reliable placekicker who can make the 50-plus yarders.
The Broncos have the edge on offensive talent, but matching up with the Patriots has always been a difficult assignment for Manning. This is a game that could be decided in the final minutes. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor