The day after.
Now that everything has had a chance to settle down and to sink in, let’s take an objective look at New England’s 26-16 loss against the Broncos in Denver in the AFC Championship.
Aqib Talib could very well be New England’s MVP
In the simplest form of most valuable player, you have to admit that Aqib Talib holds that title for New England’s defense, if not for the entire team. The minute he stepped foot off of the field, everything began to go rapidly downhill.
Following Wes Welker knocking Talib out of the game, the New England Patriots’ defense was just never the same. Demaryius Thomas, who was playing opposite Talib up until his injury, suddenly woke up and begun to shred New England’s secondary for a whopping 134 yards on seven receptions.
Prior to Talib’s injury, the Broncos had scored just three points through one quarter of play. From that point on, Peyton Manning and the Broncos rallied off 23 points and never had to punt again.
For the second straight AFC Championship, Talib was forced to exit the game early for the Patriots, which completely altered the final results in a negative way for New England.
Wes Welker’s hit on Aqib Talib needed to be flagged
Just a few plays prior to Talib’s injury, New England tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was called for offensive pass interference, was he picked one of Denver’s defenders. Following a New England punt and a few plays into Denver’s drive, Welker clearly set a screen and an illegal pick on Talib, which knocked him out of the game.
That play needed to be flagged.
Belichick had this statement to share early Monday morning:
“It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that; it’s not for me to decide. It was one of the worst plays I’ve seen. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
Obviously teams run those kind of pass concepts all the time. It’s a part of the game. One of the most commonly used ones, which the New England Patriots use all the time, is a mesh concept—which involves two receivers running across the middle and ultimately crossing paths to create separation from the defenders. This was the same exact play that Denver had run prior to Talib’s injury, but like Belichick said, Welker showed no intent to get open.
Therefore, it is an illegal pick.
By no means am I saying that this penalty cost New England the game, and by no means am I saying that the officials favored Denver more this game, but what I am saying is that Welker’s hit on Talib tremendously affected the result.
Flag or no flag, Talib still was injured and it cost New England dearly.
2013 was Peyton Manning’s year
You have Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, but none of them can touch Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning’s 2013 will go down as the greatest individual season of all time by a quarterback. What Manning has done up to this point is truly special.
In a game that had all the pressure in the world coming down on Manning’s shoulders, #18 prevailed. Manning finished with an incredible 400 passing yards on 32 of 43 passing while tossing two touchdowns, posting a stellar 118.4 quarterback rating.
With all the records that the 37-year-old quarterback has set, all of that will mean nothing if he fails to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in two weeks.
With that being said, go out there and beat the Seahawks, Peyton. Cap off your magical season the way that it should be finished.
New England’s offense ran out of time
Tom Brady gave it all he got, Julian Edelman gave it all he got, and more importantly, the entire offensive unit gave it everything they had at the end to come out as winners Sunday afternoon.
What it boils down to is that Denver is a far superior team that New England is at this point of the season.
Tom Brady finished with 277 passing yards while completing 24 of his 38 passes and tossing one touchdown and posting a 93.9 quarterback rating. It simply wasn’t enough as New England managed to muster only 16 points, while entering the fourth quarter with only three points scored all game.
Denver forced New England to throw the ball, shutting down LeGarrette Blount and New England’s ground game and taking away the middle of the field. Denver wanted New England to challenge them on the outside.
New England had no answer.
Julian Edelman is a slot receiver, Danny Amendola is a slot receiver and he’s clearly hurt, Austin Collie is a slot receiver, and Aaron Dobson is an inexperienced rookie.
Entering this offseason, I think that it’s safe to say that Bill Belichick needs to find an answer at the X receiver position. Perhaps an Anquan Boldin or Hakeem Nicks kind of player.