Sunday, October 7, 2012
3 up, 3 down for Patriots
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At an initial glance, a look at three players whose performance was "up" and three players at the opposite end of the spectrum in the Patriots' win over the Broncos (with some creative math in the up category):
Up Tom Brady -- Just three incompletions in the first half as he is in total command to help the Patriots jump out to a lead in a limited-possession game where avoiding the big mistake took on added importance. The Patriots play fast in the game, with an up-tempo approach that keeps the Broncos on their heels.
Alfonzo Dennard -- In his season debut, rookie cornerback is inserted into the nickel defense in the second quarter and is credited with a pass breakup on a third-down stop, highlighting what appears to be a rise up the depth chart. Late in the fourth quarter, he has tight coverage down the left sideline.
Brandon Lloyd/Deion Branch/WR run-blocking -- An often overlooked part of the game, the Patriots receive some hard-nosed blocking from their receivers to spring running backs for points and big gains.
Rob Ninkovich -- For the second game in a row, defensive end registers a strip sack. Coverage down the field helps, but Ninkovich shows a nice up-and-under move to get to Peyton Manning in the third quarter and jar the ball free. Ninkovich also comes up with a big forced fumble on Willis McGahee late in the fourth quarter to help close out the game.
Stevan Ridley -- Hard-charging running back has seized the lead role in the Patriots' backfield and goes over 100 yards for the second week in a row, although a fourth-quarter fumble puts a blemish on the effort.
Wes Welker -- Nine catches in the first half and 13 overall. While not a No. 1 receiver based on prototype, he plays like one. Such a key player for this offense.
Danny Woodhead -- Running back is Kevin Faulk-like in clutch situations, coming up with some big plays to move the chains in both the running and passing games.
Down Daniel Fells -- Tight end has a drop in the second quarter.
Devin McCourty -- Cornerback is flagged for pass interference in the end zone to set up the Broncos' first touchdown after not looking back for the ball, and then is in coverage on the Broncos' second touchdown to receiver Eric Decker.
Sterling Moore -- Cornerback who comes on the field in the nickel, and plays and outside position, has a tough afternoon against Demaryius Thomas despite forcing a first-quarter fumble. For a good part of the action, he is replaced in the nickel by Alfonzo Dennard.