The Patriots-Broncos game was hyped as a battle between two of the best quarterbacks in the league today. Even thought the battle between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning was entertaining, it was the Patriots running game that stole the show. The Patriots ran for 251 yards in a 31-21 victory over the Denver Broncos.
Teams will have to start paying more attention to the Patriots rushing game. Today was the first time in Tom Brady’s career that Patriots rushed for 250 yards, while the passing game did not pass that mark. (It did happen twice in 2008 when Matt Cassel was at QB.) It was only the third time that it had happened since 1993.
Stevan Ridley is quickly becoming another dangerous offensive threat for the already potent Patriots. His 151 yards rushing against the Broncos was the first time a Patriots running back had run for more than 150 yards since 2007.
Ridley gained yards with a mechanical precision against the Broncos defense. He carried the ball three times in a row on five separate occasions, most of which came in the no-huddle offense. Ridley gained at least one first down on each one of those sets. Patriots fans may be used to the deep ball threat, but maybe they should get used to seeing quick gains from Ridley.
However, it looked like the ghost of Ridley’s past came to haunt him in the fourth quarter when he fumbled on the 37-yard line after Broncos linebacker Von Miller stripped the ball out of his hands. That turnover gave Peyton Manning the ball back with 5:19 left in the game with his team only ten points down. Ridley worriedly paced the sidelines, fearing that his mistake might cost them a victory. However, Rob Ninkovich forced his second fumble on the day. The Patriots recovered and were able to run out the clock.
Danny Woodhead also made some key runs on the day. New England was facing 3-and-17 at midfield. Most fans probably expected a quick pass to Wes Welker, which had been happening successfully most of the day. Instead, the Patriots stayed on the ground and handed it off to Danny Woodhead. Woodhead, who did not have a single rushing gain longer than 10 yards on the season, broke through multiple Broncos defenders for a 19 yard gain. And if that wasn’t enough, Woodhead carried the ball on the next two plays as well giving the Patriots another first down. That helped continue a Patriots drive that took over 6 minutes off the clock and put them up 24-7 in the third quarter.
In addition to the successful running game, the receiving corps had another solid day. Wes Welker caught 13 passes for 104 yards, setting a personal best with nine catches in the first half. The offense put together a franchise best 35 first downs this afternoon. They were also efficient, with four drives of longer four minutes. The defense did its part as well, limiting the Broncos to only one possession longer than four minutes.
The Patriots seem to be at their best when they are running the no huddle offense. Their offense flows in those occasions and they don't need help from anyone, even the referees. This was evident in the second quarter when Brandon Lloyd had a ten yard reception and slid in to the end zone. The referees said he was down, but it was close and looked it could be reviewed. That didn’t even matter to the offense. Running back Shane Vereen ran in for a one yard touchdown on the next play.