Rapid Reaction: Denver Broncos

November, 25, 2013
11/25/13
12:29
AM ET

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the Denver Broncos' 34-31 overtime loss to the New England Patriots.

What it means: The Broncos' 2012 season turned with a Week 6 comeback in San Diego, when the Broncos trailed 24-0 at halftime and roared back to beat the Chargers 35-24. This season, they must now work from the other end of the spectrum after having let a 24-0 lead of their own slip away on a night when Peyton Manning again struggled in the cold and the offense went into the deep freeze until a game-tying drive. In the end, the Broncos couldn't overcome a special-teams mistake by Tony Carter.

Stock watch: At least for one half, the Broncos saw the Von Miller they have been waiting for since his suspension ended in Week 7. Miller dominated the opening half with a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown to go with two sacks, including a strip of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady that forced a fumble. However, Miller didn’t have near the same impact after halftime, particularly in the pass rush, as Brady threw for well more than 200 yards in the second half and overtime combined.

The sequel: Patriots coach Bill Belichick is noted for picking away at what you don’t want to do, and in recent meetings with the Broncos, he has often chosen to throw the ball against the Broncos defense when it’s in the bigger base look and run on the Broncos when they are in a smaller nickel package (five defensive backs). Of the Patriots' 251 rushing yards in last season’s meeting, 140 came against the nickel, and through three quarters Sunday night, the Patriots had ground out 65 of their 87 rushing yards in the nickel.

Go with what you know: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was targeted just twice by Brady in the first half and had just one catch as the Broncos used a combination of linebackers and safeties to track the Pro Bowler. The Patriots obviously wanted to make sure he got far more involved after halftime. Gronkowski had three catches in the third quarter alone, including a touchdown.

What’s next: When the Kansas City Chiefs came to Denver in Week 11, they were 9-0 and at the top of the division. Next Sunday, the Broncos will go to Arrowhead Stadium to face a 9-2 Chiefs team with two of Kansas City's best defenders -- Tamba Hali and Justin Houston -- dealing with injuries. And the Broncos are a battered group after Sunday night's old-school scrap.

Jeff Legwold

ESPN Denver Broncos reporter

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