FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Picked-up pieces from fourth quarter and overtime review of the New England Patriots' 34-31 overtime win over the Broncos:
1. Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan made a solid play on the ball to intercept Peyton Manning's pass intended for receiver Eric Decker (14:37 remaining in the fourth quarter). One part of the play we initially missed as it unfolded was a corner blitz from Kyle Arrington, who had initially been lined up over Wes Welker in the left slot. The blitz seemed to take Manning by surprise and might have contributed to him hurrying his throw to the well-covered Decker. Another timely call by defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who seemed to be more aggressive with the blitz -- or simply mixing which four players were rushing (dropping ends in coverage as linebackers come up the middle) -- in the second half.
2. One element of the Patriots' offense that is always tough to quantify is Tom Brady's ability/smarts to check out of a play based on the defensive look and pick the right play to hit at the weakness of whatever the defensive alignment might be. We'd make an educated guess that Brady's 14-yard touchdown pass to receiver Julian Edelman for the go-ahead touchdown (13:21) was an example of this. On first-and-10, the Patriots had a compact formation with tight ends on both sides of the line, and receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (left) and Edelman (right) aligned closer to the line. This constricted the defense, and Brady initially got under center before stepping out and putting his hands on helmet while calling out “Alert! Alert!” to each side. After identifying the mike linebacker (“52! 52!") to set the protection, Brady fired a dart to Edelman on a quick 3-yard out out, and Edelman did the rest by initially making cornerback Chris Harris Jr. miss.
3. After writing on Wes Welker's role in the final punt of the game, which was the decisive play in the final outcome, it caught our attention when the Patriots had a similar situation with 38 seconds left in regulation and returner Julian Edelman could be heard yelling “Peter! Peter!” That's the same call Welker said he uses to tell those on his unit that he's not fielding the punt and to abort. Watching the way the Patriots' gunners executed the “Peter” call compared to the Broncos was notable, and relates to Tedy Bruschi's take that Tony Carter was more responsible for the Broncos' miscue in overtime than Welker. Another thought: The Patriots sometimes had two returners back, and that could have helped the Broncos on a windy night.
4. Before officially turning the page from the game, the role of rookie punter Ryan Allen deserves mention. First, for striking a solid punt and making it a challenging decision for Wes Welker. Second, for the hold on the game-winning 31-yard field goal. On a cold night, and for a rookie holding for the first time in his career (he didn't in college), he's been up to the task all year.
5. Coming off a tough game against Carolina's Steve Smith, Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib got back to the Pro Bowl-caliber football he had been playing earlier in the year. In a competitive matchup against Demaryius Thomas, he more than held his own. Thomas made some plays, too, which made this 1-on-1 matchup similar to when Talib and Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson went toe-to-toe on Sept. 22. Talib made them when it counted.
6. Noted before, we still find it interesting that starting right defensive end Chandler Jones is playing the right wing on the field-goal protection unit. That's the spot where tight end Rob Gronkowski initially sustained his forearm injury last November.
7. After a week in which the role of officials following the Patriots' loss to the Panthers was criticized, just a quick note on Gene Steratore's work in Sunday's Patriots-Broncos game: While there are always a few calls that could be viewed as questionable by both teams, it was a job well done in a game that was a challenge to officiate. Steratore, from this view, is one of the NFL's best referees.