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Sunday, January 19, 2014
Leftover Patriots nuggets from Denver

By Field Yates

DENVER -- Gathering together some leftover notes from Sunday's AFC Championship Game:

Third-down struggles: The New England Patriots struggled to defend the Denver Broncos on third down, allowing them to convert on seven of 13 tries. "You can't win when you can't get off the field," defensive end Rob Ninkovich said of the woes. "Again, it was just basic fundamental football. You've got to get off the field and they do a good job of keeping the sticks moving with various formations and patterns they run with good receivers and a good tight end."

Pass rush bagel: Another area the Patriots struggled in was generating pressure on Peyton Manning. They didn't register a single sack of Manning and pressured him just three times in 43 dropbacks (according to ESPN Stats & Information), giving him far too much time to settle into his throws. Finding another pass-rusher could be a top offseason priority.

Long drives for Denver: The Broncos were able to sustain long drives on Sunday, as their two touchdown drives accounted for 173 yards on 14:09 of game time and 28 plays. Those kind of sustained drives can leave a defense deflated, particularly in the thin air of Denver.

The day after: The Patriots traveled home Sunday night, with the team wrapping up the season on Monday. Coach Bill Belichick will conduct a news conference at 9 a.m. ET, with players addressing the media from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Allen toughs it out, performs well: Credit punter Ryan Allen for a strong day, as he bounced back from an injury last Saturday night to punt three times, all landing inside the 20-yard line. He averaged 49 yards per punt and did not allow a single punt return.

Edelman logs big day: While some of his production came late in the game, wide receiver Julian Edelman capped an incredible season with a 10-catch, 89-yard effort and another score. He was a standout on offense all year long.