- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Closing the book on the Patriots' victory over the Broncos after reviewing the TV copy of the game:
1. Why I think Belichick went for it on fourth-and-5. Some took issue with Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-5 with 8:17 remaining in the game, the ball on the Broncos' 37, and the Patriots leading 31-14. CBS analyst Phil Simms was among those questioning the move. It's a good debate. I think Belichick went for it, in part, because of the left foot injury that previously knocked Tracy White out of the game and how that affected the punt team. White is the left wing on the punt team, and on the previous punt, the Broncos were close to a block as White's replacement, Nate Ebner, was penalized for holding. Ebner's struggles in punt protection are there for everyone to see on film (blocked punt in Week 2 vs. Cardinals) and my sense is that Belichick was thinking, "Why chance it?" Hard to argue with that line of thinking given the position on the field and the yardage needed, even though the results in going for it were disastrous.
2. Dennard answers the challenge. Impressive debut for rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. In addition to his second-quarter pass breakup, which sparked the turning point in the game in Belichick's view, he had tight coverage and appeared to play the proper technique when Peyton Manning came at him late in the fourth quarter. This is what I had marked next to Dennard's name: 5 targets, 0 catches against. While one of those plays might have been a result of good fortune -- Manning missed tight end Jacob Tamme on a second-quarter crossing route in which Dennard was trailing and something seemed off defensively -- Dennard seems to have earned himself some more time.
3. Underrated play of the game -- Lloyd's block. Belichick was fired up on the sideline after Stevan Ridley's 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and it was because receiver Brandon Lloyd (6-0, 200) delivered a selfless block on pursuing linebacker Keith Brooking (6-2, 240). When you rush for more than 200 yards in back-to-back weeks, as the Patriots have for the first time since 1978, the feeling here is that it's as much about mentality and attitude as anything. Lloyd's block on Brooking, maybe more than any other play this season, highlights that mentality.
4. What a difference a week makes for Vollmer. Last week, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was praised for his solid work against Mario Williams. He had a much tougher time against Von Miller on Sunday, and part of it could have been injury-related (Vollmer didn't play the final two series). Miller was terrific with 8 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defended. What a difference-maker, as it seemed like the way the Broncos moved him around gave every Patriots offensive lineman fits at some point, no one more so than Vollmer.
5. Extra points over four quarters. A few other notes scribbled down after review: For the second week in a row, the Patriots are flipping ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich at times (e.g. the first snap of the game). ... Good tackling from safety Tavon Wilson and cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington. ... Questionable angles taken by safety Patrick Chung at times. ... Tom Brady's worst throws of the day: air-mailing Rob Gronkowski early in the second quarter and Von Miller's near interception in the fourth quarter. ... Pass batted down at line of scrimmage by Chandler Jones in the second quarter. Not a sack, but still a disruptive play; seems like there is at least one of those per game.