Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Sunday, December 18, 2011
3 up, 3 down for Patriots

By Mike Reiss

DENVER -- At an initial glance, a look at three players whose performance was "up" and three players whose performance was at the opposite end of the spectrum:

Up
Mark Anderson --
Defensive end/outside linebacker rises to the challenge with 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery, as he is pressed into more extended duty after Andre Carter is carted off.

Tom Brady -- Quarterback shows his mental and physical toughness on a day when the Patriots have trouble establishing the line of scrimmage early. He finishes 23-of-34 for 320 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and takes one of the hardest hits in recent memory when Elvis Dumervil sacks him in the fourth quarter. Brady bounces right back up after the sack.

Aaron Hernandez -- Tight end delivers his best game of the season with nine catches for 129 yards and one touchdown, with some splendid work after the catch.

Down
Dane Fletcher --
Middle linebacker finishes with one tackle as the Broncos have success running early. Looks like he struggles shedding blocks at times.

Rob Ninkovich & edge setting -- The Broncos rush for 167 yards in the first quarter and some of the struggles come on the edge and with the run force. Defenders had talked all week about keeping Tebow in the pocket and it is a struggle early, before the unit rebounds.

Matthew Slater -- Struggles at safety early in the game and is replaced by Sergio Brown. His highlight comes on special teams, where he continues to be one of the Patriots' best players.