|Snap Judgments: Tim Tebow silenced in Patriots’ 45-10 win over Broncos||01.14.12 at 11:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO – For the first time since the 2007 season, the Patriots advanced past their first playoff game, tonight with a 45-10 win over the Broncos at Gillette Stadium. The first half is when Tom Brady and the Patriot offense did most of the damage, leading 35-7 heading into the locker rooms, and giving Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow virtually no chance at any second-half comeback.
The Patriots advance to the AFC Championship Game next weekend, where the winner of the Ravens and Texans will make the trip up to Foxboro.
The Patriots defense showed signs of life against Tebow and the Denver offense, and looked like a unit primed for playoff action. Here are a few observations of what went right (which was a lot), and what went wrong for the Pats.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
-Tom Brady and the Patriot offense ignited the first half with 35 points – all on touchdown passes from Brady – and never stopped rolling. The insurmountable first-half lead buried the Broncos. At the half, Brady had completed 18 of 25 pass attempts for 246 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. His long of 61 yards was fed to Deion Branch on a rope down the left sideline for his fourth touchdown pass.
-Both of the Patriots tight ends had breakthrough games in the first playoff win for New England since the 2007-08 season. Rob Gronkowski was the go-to man once again for Brady. Gronkowski punched the ball in to the end zone three times in the first half, which tied a single-game NFL record held by 16 other players. The kicker is that Gronk is only the second tight end in history (Dave Casper being the other) to have three touchdown catches in a postseason game. And Aaron Hernandez showed his versatility on Saturday night by starting at the halfback position for Danny Woodhead, and carrying the ball well. He rushed for 58 yards on three carries in the first half, and caught a touchdown pass from Brady on the Patriots’ first offensive possession in the second half. The Broncos had no answer for either of New England’s tight ends.
-The Patriots ran the no-huddle offense with ease on Saturday against a struggling Denver defense. Hernandez broke the longest run of the day for the Patriots (a 43-yarder) in the first quarter as the Broncos tried to set up in time for the snap. On multiple occasions, the Broncos training staff had to come onto the field to help sluggish defenders to their feet and off the field.
-Tim Tebow struggled heavily in the first three quarters with his accuracy, completing just three passes through the first two and a half periods of play. At the halfway point in the third quarter, Brady had six touchdown passes, doubling up Tebow’s completion total. Chants of “Tebow” flooded Gillette Stadium as the Broncos quarterback was flushed from the pocket by the Patriots defense.
-And speaking of the Patriots D – looked who showed up today. Tebow and the Broncos offense managed just seven points in the first half, and added a field goal for a total of 10 after three quarters of play. Led by linebackers Rob Ninkovich (who had four tackles, one and a half sacks and a forced fumbled after three quarters) and Jerod Mayo, the Patriots pass rush was apparent on Saturday night. Tebow was sacked, forced out of the pocket, knocked down, hurried up, and pressured in the Patriots win. The 31st ranked defense in the league didn’t reflect that peg here tonight.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
-There were a few areas that the Patriots could have improved on, if only slightly. A wonderful and record-setting day aside, Brady did throw a few errant passes – one of which ended up in the hands of Broncos defensive back Quinton Carter. Another pass sailed over the heads of both Hernandez and Wes Welker on a third down late in the first half. But really, other than the one blip on the stat sheet for Brady, it was a great day for the Patriots quarterback.
-The defensive backfield could still use work, especially if the Patriots are making a Super Bowl run. A healthy Patrick Chung gives the Patriots a veteran presence, but against a team with a better quarterback and receiving core the Pats could struggle heavily if the defensive front can’t put the same pressure against the opponent that they have on Tebow tonight. Time will tell, though. At least we know the Patriots will get another shot next weekend in the AFC Championship game.
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