NE-DEN Grades: Anderson gashes Patriots, hands them first loss
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Broncos’ 30-24 overtime victory over the Patriots:
– A second NFL start and a second win for QB Brock Osweiler (+2.4), who came up with some big plays down the field late in the game to help lead the Broncos back from a two-score fourth-quarter deficit, bringing them back into the playoff bye conversation. The Patriots chose not to blitz Osweiler often, but when they did, he made them pay, completing six of his 10 passes against the blitz for 117 yards and the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, earning a PFF passing grade of +2.1 against the blitz.
– Since returning from his suspension in Week 5, DE Derek Wolfe (+2.5) has been playing some terrific football in Wade Phillips’ defense, and he continued it last night in the snow. Though he only registered one pressure, he made the most of it, converting it into a sack after driving through Josh Kline (-0.2). Wolfe’s biggest impact, once again, came against the run, where he added five stops to his season total, and now sits fifth among all 3-4 defensive ends in run stops with 21, despite missing four weeks.
– If Osweiler brought the game back from the brink for the Broncos, then it was C.J. Anderson (+4.5) who put the game away with a game-winning performance capped off with his walk-off touchdown run on the Broncos’ third offensive play in overtime. This was Anderson’s highest single-game grade of the season and after a tough start to the year, it’s worth noting that it was around this time of year that Anderson emerged last season. He’s starting to outperform Ronnie Hillman (-2.5), and might be in for another late season surge.
HB C.J. Anderson (+4.5)
WR Emmanuel Sanders (+3.3)
LG/RG Max Garcia (+3.2)
ILB Brandon Marshall (+2.8)
DE Derek Wolfe (+2.5)
New England Patriots
– How many more injuries can this New England offense sustain, and still have Tom Brady (+2.9) overcome it with productive performances? Without the surgical precision of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola on short routes, Brady was forced to push the ball downfield more this week, completing only one of his seven downfield attempts on Brandon Bolden’s (+1.8) long touchdown catch. If Gronkowski’s late game injury costs him playing time, you have to wonder where the production will come from, even with Brady under center.
– Of those that the Patriots looked to as replacements for the load that would be borne by Edelman and Amendola ordinarily, only Bolden earned a positive grade as a receiver. Brandon LaFell (-1.5) caught only four of eight targets, though one pushed the Patriots into field goal range for the game-tying attempt at the end of regulation. Similarly, Scott Chandler (-0.8) made a catch on a nice double move for his touchdown, but went 0-of-3 on deep targets, never looking like he would trouble the Broncos down the field. Timely contributions will be crucial while the Patriots get their other receivers healthy, because it seems New England is far enough down the depth chart that they can’t look to these players as down after down contributors.
– After a strong rookie season, Logan Ryan (+3.0) has taken his time to build on those performances, but may just have played the best game of his career last night, shutting down Demaryius Thomas, save for one deep pass to open the Broncos’ go-ahead drive at the end of the game. Targeted nine times last night (eight against Thomas), Ryan surrendered only two catches for 40 yards, with the second pass coming on the Broncos’ go-ahead score when Andre Caldwell (-0.4) beat him on a fade. In the last two weeks Ryan has allowed only three catches for 44 yards on 14 targets, proving that Malcolm Butler is not the only quality corner in the New England secondary.
DT Alan Branch (+6.1)
DE Jabaal Sheard (+3.7)
CB Logan Ryan (+3.0)
QB Tom Brady (+2.9)
TE Rob Gronkowski (+1.9)