On paper, the Patriots played the Broncos pretty well. They held Denver’s number one ranked offense to just 26 points and two touchdowns, but they were unable to capitalize on important aspects that would have helped them win the game.
Three days ago, I wrote in order to beat Denver, the Patriots would have to pressure Manning, force him to throw outside the numbers, not give up big plays, and control the clock. They did okay (not a great job) forcing him to throw outside the numbers and not giving up big plays, but they did a horrible job of putting pressure on Peyton Manning and controlling the tempo of this game.
The Patriots did okay forcing Manning to throw outside the numbers, but they did give him a lot of easy throws that allowed the Broncos receivers to get some yards after the catch. Overall, outside of the screens, they did well forcing Manning to throw downfield, and was probably not a reason why they lost.
They didn’t do a great job not giving up big plays. They gave up over five plays of 20 plus yards. One of those came on a key second and twenty on the opening drive of third quarter that impeded the Patriots momentum. But when they did give up big plays, they remained resiliant and often held the Broncos to a field goal. Once again, they did well enough containing Manning to prevent him from taking advantage of them after they gave up a big play.
The Patriots did however do a poor job at controlling the clock and getting pressure on Manning, which was a major reason why they lost.
Manning was getting all kinds of time in the pocket, which allowed him to find the open receiver. The Patriots did not have a single sack in the game. They were unable to make Manning rush his throws and make mistakes. The Broncos did not have a single turnover in the game and Manning completed just under three quarters of his passes.
On a day where the Patriots were facing four pro-bowl caliber receivers without their best cornerback for most of the game, they needed a better pass rush to get Manning off the field in order to have any chance to win.
The Patriots also did a poor job at controlling the clock. Right out of the gate, the Patriots were never able to establish the run against the Broncos. Credit Terrance Knighton and the Broncos front, who manhandled the Patriots run blockers. But because they could not establish the run, they were too one-dimensional and struggled to get first downs early in the game.
The Patriots could never find their rhythm against the Broncos until it was too late. Going into the fourth quarter, the Patriots had just three points. Although the offense was terrific in the final quarter, it took them all game to be able to string together long scoring drives.
The Broncos dominated the game clock possessing the ball for over 35 minutes, allowing them to control the tempo of this game.
On a normal day, the Patriots probably could have won if they held the Broncos to just 26 points, but yesterday they couldn’t. This was because they couldn’t establish any consistant offensive rhythm until it was too late and because they couldn’t get pressure on Manning to force him to make mistakes. Therefore, the Broncos controlled the clock and ultimately the game—which is why they are going to the Super Bowl.