Congratulations to Brock Osweiler on his first career game-tying and game-winning drives, respectively.
Sure, he had help. And not just from his team! He got a few extra minutes to execute that drive from a phantom offensive pass interference call! Then, he got another shot at the endzone and a fresh set of downs after a weak holding call on Patrick Chung. And finally, he was able to have the time to find Andre Caldwell behind Logan Ryan with the help of a facemask from his center that was never called. In case you didn’t catch that, the refereeing last night was rather one-sided. To put it as bluntly as I ever have for this website, it was straight-up BS down the stretch.
Regardless, that’s not why New England lost. New England lost because they made too many mistakes. It started with Chris Harper inexplicably not calling for a fair catch in a blizzard and losing a fumble, giving the Broncos a short field and some momentum. It was the mix between aggressive and conservative play-calling with Josh McDaniels; he couldn’t choose a strategy and it hurt the team. It was because the Patriots couldn’t break off a run against the Denver defense, which made it harder to run out the clock.
Let’s change up how I usually analyze a game, and chat about the first half. The Patriots came out and looked excellent. They drove right down on the field against Denver and looked like they were going to be unstoppable. At first, the duo of Gronk and Scott Chandler looked good, scoring a touchdown each. The defense was blowing up plays and getting to Osweiler. New England more or less wasted a potential final drive of the first half. And to be honest, I was okay with that. They were deep inside of their own territory, and with the wind, snow and sleet whipping around, I’m okay with eating the rest of the clock and getting off the field.
But at the end of the day, they made mistakes down the stretch. They couldn’t put the final dagger in the hearts of the Broncos, no matter what calls may or may not have ben missed. There were drops. There were missed throws from Tom Brady. LeGarrette Blount might as well have not even dressed. Same can be said for James White, who should be held to a higher standard and higher expectations after last week. They left plays out on the field, and that simply isn’t on the refereeing. Malcolm Butler looked awful; he made some good plays in the first half, but he just couldn’t cover Emmanuel Sanders when push came to shove.
The Gronk injury looked bad, right from the start. I’m not surprised he got hurt, now that I think back on it though. Denver is notorious for cheap hits (just ask Aqib Talib himself). They were hitting him low all game long. I think it’s targeting, but it will never be called. There’s a standard in place for hits to the head, but not as much to the knee unless you’re a quarterback. I hope it looked worse than it is, but as of 12:13 AM when I’m writing this, I’m not optimistic. (Updated at 12:38 AM, Gronk isn’t on crutches or in any sort of brace. My optimism has changed).
There is good. Lots can be learned from this game. The offensive line looked pretty solid compared to the last few weeks. Brandon Bolden showed that he can legitimately respond when his number is called on offense. I think the defense looked very good, when you consider all the circumstances. Sure, the Broncos racked up a lot of rushing yards. But they only gave up a killer run on the last play of the game. Logan Ryan gave up the last touchdown, but he held Demariyus Thomas to one catch on like 12 targets. That’s an awesome showing that proves he can hang with legit receivers, and we can hope he builds off of it.
You can’t just blame the refereeing. You just can’t. If the game is close enough for the refereeing to be seen as a factor, that’s on the team.
Edelman will eventually be back. Amendola will be back. We can only hope for Gronk and Dont’a Hightower (whose loss should not be forgotten). Brady is still your quarterback; Belichick is still your coach. The season is not over. I saw people bitching and moaning all over my Twitter timeline and Facebook feed, jumping off ship already. If you’re a fan, you’re in it for the struggles too. This is football and anything can happen. To edit a quote from Belichick himself, “We’re on to Philadelphia”.