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26 Sep 2006

Any Given Sunday: Broncos over Patriots

by Ned Macey

Last season, the Broncos became the first team to beat Tom Brady in the playoffs. New England had a chance at redemption in a stadium where they had lost just one meaningful game in the past three seasons. The Patriots defense played well enough to win, but their offense was dominated by a Denver defense that has quietly become one of the best in the league.

The early-season struggles of the Patriots offense have led to talk that the sky is falling in New England. The Patriots' parsimonious ways have apparently made this once-dominant team a shell of its former self. Some are even considering the theoretically rebuilding Jets co-favorites for the division crown.

This massive overreaction ignores that the Patriots have consistently re-invented themselves in recent years. By the time the offense is sorted out, the Patriots will be comfortably cruising to an AFC East title. For a team that won three Super Bowls in four years, it may be a shock to the system that they are not the favorites in the AFC. Still, thanks to a weak division, their playoff prospects are still brighter than those of the team that marched into Gillette Stadium and left with a convincing victory.

The simplest explanation for the game is that the Broncos own the Patriots. Tom Brady is now 1-5 against Denver, with the one win coming in a game where the Broncos started Danny Kanell. Over the past five years, the Broncos have dominated the Patriots, who have dominated the Colts, who have in turned dominated the Broncos.

While this phenomenon is worth noting, the logos on the helmets did not decide this game. The Broncos have now won three times in the past 12 months not because of matchups but because they have been the better team. A more satisfying explanation for the Broncos' victory is that an under-appreciated defense bested an offense still searching for an identity.

In large part because of their playoff failings against the Colts, the consistent success of the Denver Broncos is often overlooked. The team has had one losing season in the 11 seasons Mike Shanahan has been the head coach. They have averaged over 10 wins a year this decade. By our advanced metrics, they have ranked as one of the ten best teams in football five of the past six seasons.

Shanahan, in fact, entered the game with a better winning percentage than the consensus best coach in football roaming the opposing sideline. His 124-75 mark is significantly better than Belichick's 101-78, although Belichick does have one additional Super Bowl championship. Shanahan has only one playoff win without John Elway, but that is as many as Bill Belichick has without Tom Brady.

The two playoff losses to the Colts, in which the Broncos allowed a combined 90 points, have obscured not only the overall quality of the team but even more the development of one of the league's best defenses. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer took over a mediocre defense after the 2002 season. In 2003, Coyer's defense ranked 11th in DVOA. After acquiring Champ Bailey -- in one of the league's all-time win-win trades -- Denver's defense improved to fifth and sixth the past two seasons. Both years they ranked higher than the more well-respected defenses in Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and New England.

The key to the defense is a group of athletic but physical linebackers. Bailey and John Lynch are known quantities. A number of stories have been written about the seemingly bizarre decision to import the Cleveland defensive line a year ago. Meanwhile, Ian Gold, Al Wilson, and D.J. Williams form one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL in relative anonymity.

On this particular Sunday, it was the defensive line that did the heavy lifting. They took on the physical New England offensive line and eliminated the running game. When the Patriots were forced to the air, the athletic linebackers harassed the Patriots' talented tight ends. Brady completed only seven of 16 passes intended for tight ends.

Denver's defense was at its best on Sunday, completely eliminating the New England running game and playing solid coverage. A year ago, they harried Brady into multiple mistakes with relentless blitzing. According to Football Outsiders' game-charting project, Denver blitzed more than any team in football during the season and held true to that philosophy in the playoffs. This year, they focused on the run and forced New England to beat them through the air. With seven men in coverage, Brady had few open receivers.

With 24 Brady passes falling incomplete, the departure of Deion Branch was the easy excuse for the Patriots' struggles. I disagree with the decision to let Branch go, but too much virtual ink has already been spent on that subject to belabor the point here. While his departure weakens the team this season, they still have enough weapons to get it done on offense.

Branch's departure necessitated a transition to a run-first offense. Over the first two games, Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney combined for 69 carries and 304 yards. The Patriots were clearly intent on repeating that success on Sunday. They ran Dillon and Maroney on five of their first seven and 11 of their first 20 plays. Unfortunately for the Patriots, those 11 rushes netted only 22 yards.

Corey Dillon was injured shortly thereafter, and from that point forward, the Patriots turned almost exclusively to the air. They had some immediate success, driving into field goal range only to see the field goal blocked. (While Stephen Gostkowski's two blocked field goals are a cause for concern, few have mentioned the fact that 33-year-old Adam Vinatieri has battled nagging leg injuries all season.)

The third quarter saw the passing offense stall, as Brady rarely had open receivers and was unable to connect with those that were closely guarded. The passing offense finally put the ball in the end zone on a ten-play drive all through the air. For the game, the pass offense was far from perfect but certainly not the primary problem. No turnovers, no sacks, and about six yards per play is good enough on most days when you only need 18 points.

Obviously more is expected of a passing game led by Brady. New England's passing attack should improve as Doug Gabriel gets acclimated to his new team and as Chad Jackson gets healthy. Still, their success is dependent on their ability to run the ball. With Dillon, Maroney, and a quality offensive line, they have the potential to have a dynamic rushing offense.

This switch in philosophy is nothing new for the Patriots. In 2001, the Patriots played conservative and rarely threw the ball. In 2002 and 2003, they featured a short passing attack and rarely ran the ball. The arrival of Dillon in 2004 was accompanied by an increased emphasis on the run and a sudden partiality for the deep ball. Brady's yards per attempt increased from 6.9 to 7.8. Last season, injuries to Dillon left the offense on Brady's shoulders, but the deep-passing attack remained. Without explosive wide receivers, this year's game plan appears to be pound the ball on the ground and work short passes to keep the defense honest. Brady's early yards per attempt is back down to 6.6.

While the offense is likely to be less dynamic than it was the past two seasons, it should not prevent the Patriots from repeating. The defense is better than a year ago, and the simple truth is that the rest of the division is not very good. The Jets are 2-1, but victories over Buffalo and Tennessee are hardly marquee wins. If they can beat the Colts this weekend, you will hear more about the Jets in this space a week from now. Such an outcome is unlikely. For those with short-term memory loss, the Jets were dominated at home for much of the game by these very same Patriots a week ago. A fluke play and a nice comeback made a one-sided game appear close on the scoreboard.

In Denver, they will relish this victory, but much work remains. Not all the problems of their first two lackluster games have been solved. Jake Plummer played better, but in reality, most of his success came on two big plays to Javon Walker. Opponents will keep a safety on Walker's side in upcoming weeks, and on most teams, the safety will be able to at least tackle Walker shortly after he makes a catch.

The Broncos have scored only 36 points in three games. The offense will get better, but for the first time in the Shanahan era, this team likely will be carried by its defense. With a fierce schedule -- six games against teams that have not lost yet -- the Broncos may still be fighting for a playoff spot when the inferior Patriots are resting for a home game. But the Broncos need not fear a trip to Foxboro for a playoff rematch, thanks to one of the best defenses in the league and a history of success in New England.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 26 Sep 2006

102 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2006, 11:17am by Starshatterer


by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 2:59pm

A great analysis of the Pats' woes, but not really a play-by-play account in the EPC tradition (I'm thinking of the two Freeney/Ogden pieces in particular). Or am I missing something?

The most helpful part to me was about Plummer's problems "appearing" to be over based on the win and stats, but that most of his success came in two long pass plays to Walker. Minus those.... he's still struggling.

And thanks for the background on Denver's D--I was wondering where the hell it came from!

by thad (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:00pm

As always, great write up.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:02pm

Shanahan, in fact, entered the game with a better winning percentage than the consensus best coach in football roaming the opposing sideline.

This is really the consensus? For those of us old enough to remember Life Before Tom Brady, we have a more balanced view of Belichick: of his middling record with the Browns and of his happening into starting Brady due to injury, not due to any great coaching insight. Let's see Belichick have some success post-Brady before we anoint him "the best", shall we?

I for one would take both Shanahan and Gibbs over Belichick. But I think this ground has been trod a thousand times on this site already.

by Pat on the Back (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:02pm

This "rock, paper, scissors" BS between the Pats, Broncs, and Colts needs to go. However, I do find it reprehensible that, having hated the Broncos since Elway's last minute magic kept the 49ers from winning by 50 points, my least favorite team in the league seems to have my teams number. Granted, the two phenomena probably feed off each other, but still. Just seems like every time the Pats play the Broncos, the ball bounces the Broncos way (unless Deltha O'Neill is fielding it).

And seriously, what the hell has Asante Samuel done to the referees?

by David (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:03pm

not really a play-by-play account in the EPC tradition (I’m thinking of the two Freeney/Ogden pieces in particular). Or am I missing something?

The words "Any Given Sunday" at the top of the page, maybe. EPC this week is on the Bears.

by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:04pm

A great analysis of the Pats’ woes, but not really a play-by-play account in the EPC tradition (I’m thinking of the two Freeney/Ogden pieces in particular). Or am I missing something?

Perhaps that this isn't EPC? :)

by Pat on the Back (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:05pm

In the book "Patriot Reign", it mentions that BB's plan was to get rid off Bledsoe and he drafted Brady with an eye towards that. He didn't like that Bledsoe held the ball so long and seem to only look downfield; it says that BB was frustrated Bledsoe seemed not to respond to coaching and ignored short and mid-range passes.

by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:07pm

A shame this wasn't Any Given Monday.

by Dave Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:07pm

re: #1: This is AGS, not EPC. Good article.

by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:09pm

Bobman - I think that you are thinking of the "Every Play Counts" column, which will be on the Bears' passing game this week.

by Chong Li (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:18pm

Nice analysis. The Boston papers (and I assume airwaves, as well) were flooded with gloomy predictions based upon this game, with much of it concentrated on Brady's body language. Lost in all the hand wringing was the fact that this was the third game of the season, NE always loses to Denver, and, if a call or two went the other way, the outcome could have been far different. Now, I think NE will get smoked in Cincinnati--the defense just has a tendency to give up too many big plays, and they can't get a turnover, but if they take care of the division games and the others they "should" win, they'll be in the playoffs again, with as good a chance as anyone else (provided they don't have to play Denver).

by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:20pm

#8 was not intended on a knock on the article, just that it would be nice to see a bonus edition on last night's game if you can manage it.

As a Chiefs' fan, I've noticed a lot of "the Chiefs are done" talk on this site. At the same time, I also notice a lot of "the Pats are going to be alright".

Just to note, vs. the Broncos:

1. Brady and Pats scored 7 pts at home.
2. Huard and Chiefs scored 6 pts on the road.
3. Pats D gave up 17 pts at home.
4. Chiefs D gave up 9 pts on the road (3 in OT).

If anything, the Chiefs' performance was better.

PS A lot of the Chiefs' talk is based on Herm Edwards-bashing. It may be fair. But if you think his clock management skills are significantly worse than Vermeil's, you didn't watch much Chiefs football the last few years. Or I didn't watch enough Jets. And as for conservative play-calling, hey, we had Martyball for years (not to mention Hackett as an OC). Edwards took the Jets to the playoffs more than Vermeil (and I'm a big Vermeil fan) so I'm willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:23pm

re 7: the book doesn't say that he drafted Brady with a view to replacing Bledsoe. It says he was drafted with the hopes that he would grow into the backup role. (yes, I do own a copy)

It does say that Bellichick had some issues with Bledsoe as a QB, so maybe much further down the road he would have looked to replace him, but it certainly doesn't say that this was his plan when he drafted Brady. "happening into starting Brady" is a pretty fair description.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:42pm

To be fair, Belichik's Browns steadily improved from sub-.500 to an 11-5 playoff team, only to regress when Art Modell's planned move became public knowledge in his last year. That's not spectacular, by any means, but I think it's also hardly the unmitigated disaster people seem to remember.

by Pats on the Potomac (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:51pm

Wow, a thoughtful and balanced look at the Patriots. This would never fly on the Big Show.
BTW, the officiating is getting worse this year. Pass interference is just random now, and the refs are throwing out personal fouls like candy. That's an observation from all season, not just Sunday night.
It's gotten so bad that I was actually surprised when Atlanta was called for a very obvious offensive pass intereferce penalty at the end of the Monday night game.

by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 3:52pm

While I enjoyed this AGS very much(although less so since it was the Pats getting upset), it's too bad that this couldn't have been done on the Monday night game. Specifically, I would be interested in seeing what the Saints did to shut down the Falcons running game...it seemed like they were loading up on the offensive left, which is the direction Vick likes to run, wihch seems like it should have left the stretch play to the right open. But the Falcons never managed to get anything going that way either.

by Harry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:00pm

I'm surprised this article fails to discuss New England's chronic problems containing the run and inability to get off the field on third down. For all the blame being thrown at Brady, the Pats defense was hardly stellar. I think the Broncos faced 3rd and long inside their own 10 on three separate occasions and New England failed to capitalize every time. Ironically, given all the criticism of BB cutting his veteran leaders, McGinest's replacement - Seau - is probably playing better than any of the other Pats LBs (and a lot better than Willie in Cleveland). Colvin, who is supposed to be much improved, had a very bad game and Vrabel was almost invisible. I think the pre-season CW that the Pats achilles' heel is their LB corps is still more accurate than the new CW which is blaming everything on the wideouts.

by zip (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:09pm

"As a Chiefs’ fan, I’ve noticed a lot of “the Chiefs are done� talk on this site. At the same time, I also notice a lot of “the Pats are going to be alright�."

The Pats have won two games and have an easy division. The Chiefs have won zero games in a hard division.

by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:11pm

I would have liked to see the Pats use more 4-3. They had good success against the Jets with it last week, and against a lightweight, technique-driven O-line I would think you would want to go with youth and speed (which they have on their D-line) over clever schemes and experience (the strength of their LB in the 3-4). I know the desire is to get Seau and Bruschi on the field at the same time, but both of them are getting pretty old.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:18pm

George, the regression was already evident well before Modell's announcement, although it fits within the "he stole our Super Bowl" storyline that many Brown fans still indulge in.

The reason for the regression was the salary cap mess that the team had gotten themselves into, which played out for the first four years of the Ravens' existence as well. Until the 2000 season, castoffs and budget buys like Stoney Case and Scott Mitchell were all the team could afford. That's the reason for the downturn, not that the team bailed when they heard in November that the team would leave. That die had already been cast.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:23pm

As much as a Pats fan that I am, I think the Broncos efforts got shorted in this one. It should have been subtitled Patriots under Broncos. I would have liked to see more about how the Broncos won and less of why the Patriots lost, and why they'll be OK despite it. If Rodney Harrison played in Denver, he'd be on the way to your house.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:30pm


Plummer is still struggling, but take away the bout of the dropsies the Broncs had a week earlier (especially on Walker's part) and one realizes some of the blame lies with the receivers.


I think there's a consensus Belichick is one of the best, at least. He did well in Cleveland despite massive interference from the ownership and due to the impending move. In a poll of coaches a year or so ago, I remember him coming in first by a large margin as best coach, with Shanahan second and I think Reid third.


The Chiefs did play the Broncos better, but that doesn't mean they're a better team. Detroit played Seattle better than the Giants and San Francisco beat St. Louis where the Broncos failed, but I don't see any one anointing the Lions or 49ers as playoff contenders ahead of the Giants or Broncos. This is why the history is important. For some reason, Shanahan has usually been able to outcoach Belichick face-to-face. It took an intentional safety for Belichick to win the one time he has vs. Shanahan. KC is an unknown quantity right now, and while I think both teams have dropped a tier or two I think they still remain a level down from the Patriots.

As for Edwards clock management, there were many coaches in the league who were bad at clock management, but none so drop-dead inane at it as Edwards in New York.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:35pm

"both teams have dropped a tier or two" in #22 refers to KC and New England, and not Denver and KC.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:51pm

Re: 21

That's exactly what I was thinking.

by Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 4:58pm

Re 16:

I don't know if there will be an "official" review, but from what I saw, a few things happened to stuff Atlanta's run game:

1. NO's defensive line attacked their blockers very effectively to cut off downfield zone and cut blocking.

2. NO's linebackers have been way underrated, and are very quick and agressive. I heard Merrill Hoge today say some stupid comment about the NO linebackers being the slowest in the league. I am not sure what league he watches, but I thought they flew to the ball. Relatedly, they also did a great job minding their gaps and edge control. I never saw Dunn or Vick with a legitimate outside running opportunity, which forces them inside. Since the NO Defensive line had done such a good job attacking (and to my untrained eyes it looked like they were attacking their blocker more than trying to shoot gaps), the cut back lanes for Dunn weren't there.

3. Atlanta gave up on their run game too early, especially considering how bad their receivers looked dropping Mike Vick passes like a hippie does acid.

4. As a special bonus point, though it has nothing to do with how NO stopped the run, I was shocked at how bad Grady Jackson looked. He routinely was getting blown off the line, sometimes by just one blocker. This guy was supposed to be their big run-stuffing acquisition? I don't think so.

by Oswlek (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 5:00pm

Third downs killed NE. If NE could have stopped Denver on *one* of the three times Josh Miller dropped a punt inside the 5, this game would have gone much differently. This has been a problem this year, and has always been so against Denver.

I was also dissappointed with NE's rush defense. I went into that game confident because I had the misguided notion that Denver wouldn't run effectively.

I guess I am saying nothing other than what Harry says above.

by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 5:01pm

> As much as a Pats fan that I am, I think the Broncos efforts got shorted in this one.

Yes, the Broncos were obviously the superior team, especially on defense. Somewhat like last season, I'm also hearing a sentiment that goes something like "don't worry, the Patriots play in a weak division, so they have as good a chance as anyone once the playoffs start". This does not seem to me the approach that one of the league's better teams would take in maintaining or building a true championship-caliber team. It almost sounds like a fallback plan.

by Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 5:04pm

Belichick has repeatedly said, and it's hardly hidden knowledge, that getting off the field on third down, especially third and medium-to-long, involves pass rush. I didn't see much pass rush from NE on Sunday night. Whereas against both Buffalo and the Jets either Seymour, Warren, or Colvin lived in the backfield; rarely did I see Plummer seriously threatened and when he was, it was on account of a blitz (which Denver also picked up quite well most of the time). No pass rush = third down conversion.

by Mike W (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 5:26pm

Two things:
1. While I'd be happy to agree the Pats WRs are lousy, the prospect of Gabriel and Jackson forming their starting duo by the end of the year isn't so bad. Also, they've won three Super Bowls with poor-to-mediocre wideouts (excepting Branch, whose best point is that he's relatively sure-handed, not that he's a game-breaker), and I believe Philadelphia has had some success with poor wideouts (though their current situation is better than it was pre-TO). And as much as I like Branch, the Pats' offer to him was reasonable. The posturing about compensation, not so much, but it was just that, and they wound up accepting a very late 1st rounder, which is about what people thought they should get. Not overpaying simply because there's a lot of money laying around is a good idea for a lot of reasons.
2. NO did a great job on Vick by their outside guy always overplaying Vick to the outside. The first guy is going to miss anyway, so he might as well do something positive by channeling Vick towards the help. Also, this assures that Vick will get hit, rather than running out of bounds. I'm not talking about trying to injure anyone, just saying that there is value in putting a hit on a QB, period.

by Scot K (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 5:34pm

Re: 21, 24, 27

FO wears its manlove for Brady, Belichick and the Pats on it's sleeve, but what can you do? The Broncos didn't "win" the game, the Pats "lost" it (or the officials "took" it).

The alleged Plummer problems were always overstated. Jake wasn't getting ANY help from his recievers until the 4th Quarter of the KC game. And I think the Bronco's were having some difficulties because teams were heavily game planning for the rollout, which limits Plummers effectiveness. Jake is going to be OK. We all know he's no Brady.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 5:40pm

FO wears its manlove for Brady, Belichick and the Pats on it’s sleeve, but what can you do? The Broncos didn’t “win� the game, the Pats “lost� it (or the officials “took� it).

And I've said before that I'm perfectly fine with that. I just feel that a mild (and mild is the key work here) reminder when a piece is this slanted towards the Pats is probably a good thing for the site. "Keeps 'em honest", if you would.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:01pm

FO wears its manlove for Brady, Belichick and the Pats on it’s sleeve, but what can you do?

Yeah, I mean, it's so obvious. It's not like they say

Denver’s defense was at its best on Sunday, completely eliminating the New England running game and playing solid coverage.

in the article, or

The best defense on the field in Foxboro belonged to the Broncos.

in the intro.

C'mon. Several times in the article they say "The Broncos were the better team." How is that love for the Patriots? Ned's description of the game is apt, I think:

A more satisfying explanation for the Broncos’ victory is that an under-appreciated defense bested an offense still searching for an identity.

Some people just love to search for bias where one doesn't exist.

by Harry (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:03pm


Belichick has beaten Shanahan twice. Ironically BB's first victory as HC of Pats came against the Broncos in 2000, but that was of course pre-Brady. So BB started out 1-0 against Shanahan and things have gone steadily downhill since.

BB was 0-4 against Denver when he coached the Browns (against Reeves and Phillips) so maybe the logos do have something to do with it.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:06pm

And incidentally, I don't understand the "obvious bias" claims. There are about 2 paragraphs on the Patriots, 7 paragraphs about the Broncos, followed by 7 paragraphs dedicated to the Patriots, followed by 2 paragraphs on the Broncos. Last I checked, that's a fairly even article.

I would have liked to see more about how the Broncos won and less of why the Patriots lost

Uh, doesn't it do that? Like, right here? On this particular Sunday, it was the defensive line that did the heavy lifting. They took on the physical New England offensive line and eliminated the running game. When the Patriots were forced to the air, the athletic linebackers harassed the Patriots’ talented tight ends. Brady completed only seven of 16 passes intended for tight ends.

What am I missing?

by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:09pm

I thought Any Given Sunday was supposed to be an analysis of how a team thought to be inferior defeated a team that was widely expected to win? Is that untrue?

Are we at the point now that any Patriot loss is viewed as an upset?

I haven't actually read the article yet, so maybe I am way off base.

by John P (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:13pm

I'm sorry. I love this website, but this was not up to its usually lofty standards. This was only marginally better than the typical post game AP write up. The Broncos own the Pats? The Pats are running the ball this year? The Broncos D is good? These are deep thoughts for ESPN/FOX, but not for FO. Why do the Broncos own the Pats, and in what way? How was Denver able to stop a Pat running game that had been going well this year? With Dillon out, wasn't this Maroney's chance to shine? Wasn't he supposed to be taking over for Dillon anyways? How did Plummer manage to put together a decent game, after looking so awful in his first two games? Tatum Bell was finally given the starting job, instead of splitting time with Mike. What did Shanahan see to make that (apparently) great call for this game? How do the two runners differ? This is the kind of stuff we are used to seeing from FO.

What's more, this article should not have been titled "Broncos over Pats", like it was some analytical breakdown of some random game. It would have been more accurately titled, "The last Pats game, and why we Pats fans shouldn't start panicking yet". Because it sures doesn't say anything meaningful or useful to the rest of us.

Actually, I just re-read the NFL.com wire report on this game. It was clearly superior.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:16pm

Re #25
That's because they all have "deceptive speed."

Seriously, what impressed me most about the NO defense was how well they kept contain and allowed the linebackers to make the plays. Dunn was unable to get consistently good yardage, and the Falcons were unable to make plays in the passing game. When NO had the ball, it seemed like the Falcons paid too much attention to Bush at the expense of Deuce. Brees was also very effective, but that didn't surprise me.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:16pm

I haven’t actually read the article yet, so maybe I am way off base.

The biggest upset of the week came on Monday - the article was planned before it. There weren't really any upsets on Sunday, so this was the closest thing to it.

Aaron, from the Audibles thread:

Re: 26, if it seems like an odd Any Given Sunday, blame Josh Cribbs. We were *so* ready to do Ravens-Browns. I was excited to popularize Alex and Corey Rubin’s name for the Cleveland defense, “Oshinowo’s Eleven.�

I would've liked Saints/Falcons, but given the time constraints I can understand.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:24pm

Re #35
In which game on Sunday did a team that beat a clearly superior team? STL over ARI, GB over DET, NYJ over BUF? CIN over PIT, maybe, but the Steelers turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter in their own territory and the Bengals turned those two turnovers into 14 points, then another Steeler turnover on the attempted game-tying drive. NO over ATL was the most "surprising" result of the weekend, but I believe the emergence of the Bronco D as the key force in a DEN victory is an interesting topic, by which I mean one that is (a) important and (b) something that hasn't already been identified and dissected.

by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:26pm

#38 - Thanks, Pat, I guess that makes sense.

by queequeg (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:39pm

concerning the saints containment of vick's bootleg threat, as an eagles fan i was curious to see if the acquisition of Mark Simoneau and Hollis Thomas would bring in some of the philadelphia gameplan from the divisional and championship games against Atlanta, combining it with the history the saints have had in gameplanning against vick twice a year. The knock on Simoneau in philly was that he really could not shed a guard or fullback at mike, but his play recognition was actually quite good.

by John P (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:41pm

#32. Please. The target audience of the article is clearly Pats fans. Starting with a discussion of the Pats early season offensive struggles, which don't even compare to what Plummer has been going thru in Denver. Followed by the chiding of Pats faithful for over reacting. What about the calls by Broncos fans for Cutler to start in Denver? Then he includes a bunch of compliments for the Broncos D, which are designed to explain to Pats fans why they shouldn't get too worried about their beloved team. Then a breakdown of the race for the AFC East crown, but nothing about the AFC West. The Broncos are actually behind in that race. In fact, if you are going to have a homer type article, the one from the Denver side would have been much more interesting.

by Jason (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:48pm

Re bias: Why can't the guy write whatever article he wants with whatever bias he has? If you don't like it, fair enough -- go write your own from Denver's perspective (which could be very interesting). You aren't paying for independent consulting, here, right?

by GlennW (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 6:49pm

Yes, the tone and direction of the article is Patriots-centric, but the content and opinions are balanced at least. I can live with that.

I don't completely agree with the notion that Patriots fans shouldn't be concerned with what thus far appears to be a fairly average to slightly-above average football team, but the game coverage was right down the middle.

by jules (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:03pm

This is pure speculation, and with no real access to any hard data, but I'd suspect the Broncos D's strength is against the run and the short passing game.

It's D-Line are particulary dangerous pass rushers, hence the amount of pass blitzing required last year, and why seem to have trouble with the pass 1st teams in the AFC (Bengals, Colts, etc...).

But the Patriots become a perfect storm/matchup for them on Sunday as result of new/mediocre wideouts for Brady and Belichick game planning to rely on the run and passes to the tight ends.

That said, at some point, Larry Coyer needs some love. This is a D-Line filled with cast-offs, low dollar free agents, and complete unknowns. Kudos to him and Shanahan.

by admin :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:07pm

The funny part of the "FO wears its Patriots manlove on its sleeve" argument is that Ned is from Indianapolis.

by ABW (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:08pm

Hey John P, take the hate somewhere else. You want to read a Pats bias into the article that no one else can see, fine, but go bitch and moan about it somewhere else. I'm way sicker of people complaining about the FREE articles on FO than the stupid first posts.

Re: Pats not getting off the field on 3rd down when Denver was pinned deep

The pass rush definitely did not get there on the deep ball to Javon Walker. But the first time they flushed Plummer out of the pocket and Seau couldn't run him out of bounds before he got the first. And the other time Asante Samuel just got beat on a quick pass by Rod Smith. In fact, looking at the gamebook, Asante Samuel was getting beat a lot. What happened to him? He looked like he could be good his second year. Maybe he would be better off as a nickel back covering guys in the slot, but it doesn't seem like he's getting it done right now.

Anyhow, the point was, the pass rush last night wasn't good, but I'm not sure it would have forced Denver to put in those situations. Faster linebackers and better coverage might have.

by DavidH (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:13pm

just for fun, I counted up how many times teams and players were mentioned by name in this article. i'm serious when i say "for fun," i was just curious. i'm not complaining.

Patriots 25
Broncos 18
Colts 4
Jets 4
Bills 1
Titans 1
Bucs 1
Jaguars 1
Browns 1

Mike Shanahan 4
Bill Belichick 3
Larry Coyer (DEN) 2

Tom Brady 12
Corey Dillon 6
Laurence Maroney 3
Stephen Gostkowski 1
Doug Gabriel 1
Chad Jackson 1

Javon Walker 3
Champ Bailey 2
John Lynch 1
Ian Gold 1
Al Wilson 1
DJ Williams 1
Jake Plummer 1

Deion Branch 3
Adam Vinatieri 1

Danny Kanell 1
John Elway 1


by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:13pm

#32. Please. The target audience of the article is clearly Pats fans.

Are you a Denver fan? I'm not a Patriot or Broncos fan at all. To me it doesn't seem slanted at all. Yeah, there's discussion of the Patriots AFC East race, but that's only because it's pretty clear, whereas for the Broncos, it isn't. There's also no discussion of the Patriots defense at all, so again, I just don't see it biased at all.

Followed by the chiding of Pats faithful for over reacting.

I'm guessing you didn't read the Audibles thread, nor the comments about Patriots fans booing in the game. Yeah, Denver fans are calling for Cutler. Big deal. They were calling for Jake to go last year too. Not exactly anything noteworthy to write about.

Incidentally, Ned's not a Patriots fan. He's a Colts fan.

by thad (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:24pm

What am I missing?

I don't know? Seemed pretty fair to me.

by Kaveman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:51pm

#45: Good grief. What are you talking about? Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban, Courtney Brown and Kenard Lang were all first round picks. Warren has a 6 year 36 million contract. They may not be the best D line around, but they sure ain't unknowns, and they aren't all low priced.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:58pm

To me there is a slight focus on one team, but if you read Any Given Sunday regularly, there usually is. I would be amazed if most articles concerning two teams referred to them an equal number of times. Last week's Any Given Sunday on the Bills beating the Dolphins heavily favored discussing the Dolphins, much moreso than this article favors discussing the Pats. Nobody seemed to get upset when the Fins got a lot of attention. When the Pats do, though, oh boy, watch out.

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 7:58pm

For anyone looking for game coverage that shreds the Pats and paints a gloomy picture of their future, please check out the Bostons Globe and Herald. And then please just give it a rest.

by MdM (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 8:20pm

Can I just say good job Ned, thanks for the article as always?

And also...whoever it was complaning about the Patriots bias, shut up, you look stupid saying that?

by Ned Macey :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 8:37pm

These weren't the final odds, but as of Saturday, the line on this game was seven points. New England had lost one meaningful home game in three years. Denver had just barely beaten the Damon Huard-led Chiefs. The Lions were 6.5 point favorites, Bills 5.5, Arizona 4.5, and Atlanta 3.5. We generally like to write more about teams that are playoff contenders. As such, I do promise that when the Patriots lose as 7 point favorites, they will be the subject of AGS 95% of the time. If they lose this week at Cincinnati, I assure you they will not.

Also, since maybe not everyone is a regular, I wrote extensively two weeks ago that the Broncos should stick with Plummer after the Rams game. I didn't think I should bore people with an "I told you so" particularly since his stats were padded by basically two big plays.

Otherwise, what do we have, the Broncos run the ball well? There's a new angle. Also, it is hard to talk extensively about individual defenders since other than the D-Line, you don't see what the defenders are doing on most plays.

As for Atl-NO, that would have been more interesting in a lot of ways, but you guys didn't miss much by me not writing. I had no way of factoring in the emotion element. And, until all our stats for this season are opponent-adjusted, I don't really trust them for conclusions. Nothing from past seasons could have predicted that performance. And, I hadn't seen the first two Atlanta games, so I had nothing to compare the Saints gameplan to. My article would have looked a lot like #25 except a lot longer and without the acid joke.

Finally, I could probably be called on a lot of subconscious biases, but I never thought I'd see the day when I was considered a Patriots homer.

by Rob (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 8:44pm

hm... i disagree with the Pats' prospects. Yeah they will win the division, and they will win the division so long as there aren't any challengers (which there won't be for a while), but, especially in the long term, I don't think they are employing a good strategy. Their linebackers are old and the weakest part of the team; there are few new guys to replace the older ones, as well. Their secondary is questionable at best: Harrison will retire soon, and Asante Samuel will be able to get a very large contract somewhere else next year, which, given the current Pats contract strategy (or at least the one employed with Branch), the Pats will not match. Likewise for their wide receivers, where the best prospects are Gabriel and Jackson. Neither is a sure thing at all. The only sure thing is that many of the key players on this team are either getting old or getting ready to leave via free agency--and that does not bode well for them. Does anyone else think that they are simply not on the same level as the elite teams of the AFC, the Broncos, the Colts, the Steelers, the Bengals, the Chargers, and possibly the Ravens?

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 9:00pm

56: Your comment makes perfect sense. After all, the Patriots are incapabable of signing free agents or retaining thier players, and the other teams you mentioned certinaly don't have any problems with players getting older or leaving to join other teams, right?

by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 9:03pm

Right, as Aaron mentioned, Ned is a Colts fan. Do you people pay any attention, or just run around throwing half-baked theories around for everything you see?

That said, I liked the article. It was well-written, not ground-breaking, but then again, what would have been? The "upsets" on Sunday were rather pedestrian, especially since probably the biggest one was the Stillers shooting themselves squarely in the foot.

I look forward to the next EPC, since we touched on that. We shall have an epic argument, especially if MDS starts waxing poetic about Grossman. I hope he participates in the thread (he usually doesn't, if I recall) if he does, because he knows what's coming (the inscription on my copy of PFP06 is directly related to the subject, in fact).

by Kaveman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 9:25pm

#47: Unlike yourself, John P actually offers some justification for his point of view. Your "go-elsewhere-if-you-don't-like-it" argument isn't exactly dazzling, in contrast. Furthermore, if you read the posts, John is not the only reader who believes that this article is... somewhat slanted. See #21, #24, #27 and #30.

Whether it is or not, is it okay for an article such as this to be biased? Does journalistic integrity apply to sports reporting? I don't know. It's an interesting question.

But anyway, this is a recurring (and already boring) argument around here. Accusations of bias (whether true or false) will be made as long as these boards are dominated by Pats fans, especially the more obnoxious ones.

I'd like to see FO make more of an effort to level the playing field for fans of different teams, but I recognize that it would be difficult to do this without losing the generally great community that posts on these boards. So hey. This site's writers and message board community still beat those of every other football site out there. And I'm a Broncos fan.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 10:59pm

Furthermore, if you read the posts, John is not the only reader who believes that this article is… somewhat slanted.

How many of those posts aren't from slanted fans, though? I'm not biased either way. I don't think it seemed biased at all. Neither did a slew of other players.

Accusations of bias (whether true or false) will be made as long as these boards are dominated by Pats fans, especially the more obnoxious ones.

These boards aren't dominated by Patriots fans. See here. There are ever so slightly more Patriots fans than Pittsburgh fans, but not significantly.

By division, actually, the boards have more NFC East fans than any other division.

by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 11:46pm

I'm sorry I mentioned anything on this thread. My inyention was not to accuse FO of being a Pats only website, nor was it in any way a shot at the article itself. I just thought that the Den/NE matchup was a pretty even one going into it and did not look at the results thoroughly enough to see that there really weren't any 'upsets' this week (on Sunday, that is).

That is all.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/26/2006 - 11:54pm

Just for the record, I believe (i) the article was focused on the Patriots offense against the Broncos defense and (ii) the article was not biased in favor of the Patriots. And, as I mentioned in one of the Deion Branch threads, I'd love to see the Patriots lose all their games.

by Kami (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:12am

As a Colts fan from Indy who has read FBO since before the TMQ incident, I can definitively say that
Football Outsiders is NOT biased towards the Patriots--or any team.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:13am

Did anybody else notice that the AGS colums tend to focus more on the team that was upset rather than the upsetting team? If Denver fans feel the need to read more about thier team, they can always read the article from week 1.

by Rob (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:30am

ouch. ok. well. which big free agent signings have they made recently? I'm basing it off of their recent strategy, which has been... to bleed players. they signed Duane Starks. They tried to sign Derrick Mason, but didn't. They signed Corey Dillon, which worked out well, then replaced him through the draft, which also worked well. They signed Junior Seau, who is too old to play much longer. in terms of getting old-getting older doesn't matter so much until you get to that point in the career of a player when they decline. so, whos there? Harrison, Bruschi, and Seau on the defense; Brown on the offense. All key players, with no apparent replacements. When I said leaving in free agency, I meant leaving after their rookie contracts are up--because the second contracts players sign tend to be much more than the first, that is, if they're good players. into this category falls Samuel, Koppen, and a bunch of others who I can't remember. They ran into this problem with Branch, and then they lost him. Which wasn't good. So, is my argument legimitate enough to address without sarcasm now?

by T. Owens (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:30am

But just remember: Nobody should boo Tom Brady.

by Solomon (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:05am

You mentioned that New England had lost only one meaningful home game in the last three years. In 2003 and 2004, the Pats went undefeated at home. However, they lost to the Chargers, Colts, and Dolphins at home in 2005. Are you saying that one of the losses to the Chargers or Colts was meaningless? Both losses occurred within their first eight games, well before playoff berths or seeds had been determined. You could argue that the Colts game carried some extra meaning for the Colts, given their recent history against the Pats.

by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:11am

I think the article focused more on the Pats than the Broncos, but I am okay with that for a number of reasons:
1) NE was the favorite that lost, so we want to know what's wrong, if anything
2) The Pats have been the big men on campus for the last half-decade, so what happens to them is generally important. (I say this as a Colts fan)
3) NE has, without Dillon in the second half, a very different look than in past years, and it's worth spending some time to figure it out. While the Broncos may be evolving, the Pats seem to be reinventing, so that fresh look is a bit interesting.
4) And, as a Colts fan, any discussion of a game in which NE loses is like nectar to me :)

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:55am

mmmmm.... Pats loss....

#60: Thanks for that trip down memory lane! I'll never forget the look on Marino's face when Esiason compared Manning to him.


by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:49am

One of the reasons why Denver has so much success against the Pats is that they fail to contain Plummer from rolling out. The Steelers, Rams and CHiefs all accomplished this, but for some reason NE can not do it.

I think Plummer is a good, not great QB, but his success or failure is dependant on his ability to get out of the pocket and either pass or run. When he scrambled 10yds for a 1st down deep in Denver territory, I knew it would be a long day for the Pats. Obviously the big plays to Walker were key, but he made a lot of big plays on 3rd down.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:11am

I'm a TOTAL Broncos homer, and I TOTALLY think this was WAY too slanted in favor of the Pats. Again, I'm a TOTAL BRONCOS HOMER. You should IGNORE THIS COMMENT ENTIRELY.

No, seriously, ignore me. I'm always disappointed to not read more about the Broncos, but that's because reading about the Broncos is like crack cocaine for me. I'm all disappointed that I didn't read more about the Broncos here, but I don't really even have any clear questions about the Broncos that didn't get answered. I'm just like, "but, but what about the... COME ON, MAN!!!"

by Ned Macey :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 9:24am

#67-You're obviously right. Those are both meaningful. I misread their results on profootballreference and missed the Chargers game. Two meaningful losses it is.

by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:05am

Re 56 and 60 (Pats linebackers):

I have a theory about Belichick and linebackers: He was so blessed with Carson and Taylor; and then with McGinest, Johnson, Bruschi, etc., that he has a higher bar for linebackers than for any other position. He has to be big, he has to move fast, he has to be smart and be able to play up on the line or drop into coverage, he has to be able to shed blocks and maintain gaps, etc. There's just very few guys that fall into this category. Many of the best linebackers in the league are fast and strong but have to move to the ball rather than protect gaps and shed blocks (Ray Lewis, Julian Peterson, etc.), which is the 4-3 linebacker (mike and OLB respectively). In fact, Ray Lewis was famously bad the year he was playing in a 3-4, because, as good as he is, he wasn't a block shedding gap protecting badass like Bruschi or Vrabel (I also suspect a few other guys could also play in the Pats system like Urlacher or Mike Peterson, but they just don't grow on trees). There are (not surprisingly) few 6'4 250lb guys who can keep up with tight ends and are smart enough to play in a 3-4. And, I think Belichick has said this outright, even someone fast and strong enough is almost never ready right out of college. Neither Vrabel nor Bruschi was, both were special teams guys for years.

This is all beside the simulatenous fact that most of these kinds of guys -- these big fast smart linebackers Belichick (who probably got it from Parcells) favors, frequently start out as college defensive ends and then have to be converted. So you can't take a great college DE high in the draft because you'd be blowing a draft slot too high on a guy you maybe can't project well enough to linebacker. But it also means you lose some of the athletic ability that pushes a guy up in the draft in the first place. Finally, there is the proliferation of Parcells/Belichick guys in the league. Maybe four years ago Kamerion Wimbley is too much tweener for the league's taste and he drops to the Pats. Now, RAC drafts him high because he likes the same guys Belichick does.

This is all a long way of saying that linebacker is a very difficult position for the Patriots to fill, both because it's hard to find the right guys and because Belichick expects a lot from them. There was a great confluence of players and coach in the 01-05 years for the Patriots. My guess is that unless they start hitting on all cylinders elsewhere, or magically find some new amazing young 3-4 linebacker to step in, the great Patriots defense of the past few years becomes a thing of the past, only.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:09am

65: Well, the problem with your arguement is you're ignoring the players that they've aquired through free agency like Harrison and Colvin, or the drafted players where they signed to big second contracts, like Brady Seymour or Light. Of course, I'm ignoring the free agency mistakes like Monty Beisel and Duane Starks, but I want to forget about them. Losing Branch was a mistake, and the Partiots ended up with a bunch of unused cap money and little to show from free agnecy this year, but over the past half decade, thier strategy has been sound.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:31am

#73: I think you're making it out as more difficult than it is. Sure, it's tough to find the right guys for a good 3-4, but we have 3 teams with very good 3-4s right now, and a few years ago a number of teams with decent 3-4s. Finding the guys is less a problem of digging really deep, but of scouting properly.

by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:42am

I think that the fallacy that "all they need is Brady" is finally catching up to the Pats.

The real problem as I see it is that they had a god awful defense last year, and they did virtually nothing to improve it.

Maybe the loss of Crennel and Weis have something to do with it as well.

by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:47am


"Finding the guys is less a problem of digging really deep, but of scouting properly."

Maybe, but isn't that the same thing?

Anyway, that's the best explanation I can come up with for why the Patriots can't seem to get any new blood into the linebacking corp. since Colvin (do you count Seau? I don't because he'll be gone this year).

by Rob (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:07pm

I'm not ignoring it--Harrison will be gone soon. He's old. He's injured. He's not as good as he once was. They thus have a huge hole at safety, which was once of the major strengths of the Pats defense. Colvin, yes, but he is 29 already. In fact, three out of four starting linebackers are over 31, and Colvin is 29. This indicates to me that their performance will continue to decline; and with nothing but role-players behind them, again, a major strength of the defense will become a weakness. In terms of resigning guys--yeah, thats three. So, maybe they resign Dan Koppen and Asante Samuel--lets assume they do, since to sit on all the cap room would be stupid. Wait, that's exactly what they did this year. All sarcasm aside, the really promising thing about the team is that both lines are young and perennially good. But, my biggest question is, how do they replace so many ex-great players on the defense? And where are their wide receivers?

by Rob (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:08pm

Also, yes, I am very well aware that the same question is always asked about the Patriots (how do they replace these players), but that doesn't mean the question doesn't have validity, and it doesn't mean that there isn't some critical mass of good players needing to be replaced that tips that once good defense over the edge.

by Scot K (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:26pm

As the guy who posted the original "manlove" comment, please allow me to apologize for starting a small firestorm over the FO Patriots bias. I didn't mean to imply that it was a bad thing.

Lets be honest, the sunday e-mail discussion thingy was filled with "I went to the Pats Game" and "I hate the Broncos" and "How dare anyone boo Tom Brady" etc. etc. So its pretty clear that many of the FO principals are Pats Fans. Nothing wrong with that. This article was primarily focused on what the Pats did wrong, or what the Pats need to work on, as opposed to the Broncos complete and total dominance of the Patriots (Relax, just kidding). Point is this, the article could easily have been about what the Broncos did better than in their last two games, and what that bodes for the future. That editorial decision was not made. And regardless of whether Ned is from Indiana or Timbuktu, I'm sure his choice was influenced by what his (highly New England centric) audience and site masters want to read about. And again, that's not a bad thing. And its not a bad thing for me (or anyone else) to point out.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:41pm

So its pretty clear that many of the FO principals are Pats Fans. Nothing wrong with that.

Uh. Aaron is, and Bill Moore is. Click on "Meet the Outsiders." That's pretty much it.

Jeez. One of the guys goes to the game, and there are a few comments about it, and now it's "Many of the FO principals are Pats Fans."

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:42pm

Harrison was brought in to replace Milloy, and Samuel was drafted to replace Law, so it's not as though the Patriots have been unable to replace great players in the past. Afo how they will replace them, well the draft and free agency are typically the best options.

by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:49pm

re 81:

Not that I really care, but arguing that there isnt a Pats bias here is kind of silly.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:58pm

83: Is it really? Aaron's a Patriots fan, but his writing is based almost entirely on statistics and objective measuring tools. Bill Moore is a patriots fan too, but he's work here is concentrated on the game charting project, which is also an objective measuring tool. Ned, who wrote this article, is a Colts fan, and he certainly isn't biased towards the Patriots. This article concetrates more on the Patriots than the Broncos, but the style of AGS is to look more at the team that was upset than at the team that did the upsetting. If anything, the Patriots bias was in expecting the Patriots to win, but vegas had them as a 7 point favorite, so it's by defination an upset. DVOA, on the other hand, didn't see it as an upset, week two had NE and DEN about equal.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:04pm

Re 83:
No, it's not. This SITE has no bias. However there are a disproportionate number of Pats, Pitt and Philly commenters (well, regular commenters, I don't know who reads the site). The only articles with any biases are the picks articles. Those articles are meant for entertainment though and I don't see anything wrong with a little Tampa love (Michigan love is another story). Differentiate between the fans that visit the site and the people who run it.

by Scot K (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:21pm

Re 81, 85;

No one is saying that the stats created here are biased. But it's human nature (and good business) for the website to focus their editorial content on (a) the teams they like; and (b) on the teams whose fans form a disproportionate share of the readership. Again, NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. FO is probably no more biased in its editorial selections than any other media organization, so to that extent, my original comment was a mere truism. There is really no point in pointing out bias, so I apologize for doing it. My bad.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:31pm

Scot, your comment would make a whole lot more sense if it wasn't for the fact that only one of the writers here is a Patriots fan.

Ned's a Colts fan. MDS is a Lions fan. Mike Tanier is an Eagles fan. Bill is a Giants fan, Ian is a Bucs fan, Ryan is a Steelers fan, and Doug is a Seahawks fan.

I guess it's possible for Aaron's unseen presence to hover over all of them and force them to only write things about the Patriots. But c'mon.

by jesse (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:56pm

as to the patriots recent personnel difficulties: Under the current cap system, rosters fluctuate on a 3 to 5 year cycle, rather like college programs. it is just not cost efficient to pay top dollar to 5th and 6th year guys; you have to let them go and start over. some of the replacments, by draft or free agency, will be busts. but abandoning the system is a mistake.
it is clar that the pats have regressed this year. but they have done so through a general policy of shedding older high priced talent and searching for young talent. eventually, they will be back to where they were in 03- until they regreess again towards the mean, and begin again.

by morganja (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:25pm

There is definitely lots of focus on Patriot and Eagle fans on this site. But I wouldn't have it any other way. How joyful it is when my team is losing to tune into this site and hear the surprised anguish of Patriot fans lamenting and gnashing their teeth over the injustice of a genius coach and infallible GM, both of whom can do no wrong and are worthy only of our devoted worship, losing to the forces of evil and entropy.
The rest of the country thinks that New Englanders don't believe in God. Obviously they do, and he wears a hoody.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:45pm

Re: 80

As the first person who agreed with you, I guess I should chime back in.

When reading the article, it just seemed like there was a lot of focus on quelling the fears of Pats fans (or at least that was the part that stuck in my mind). And even after being reminded that Ned's an Indy fan, that still seems (if not more so) like an odd angle for a piece on that game. I meant no disrespect to the article or to Ned. It just seemed odd to me. It saddens me that so much complaining about the site being bias followed my comment.

by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 7:14pm

"New England had lost one meaningful home game in three years."

How can you say this. In 2005 alone they lost to San Diego, Indianapolis, AND ansas City all before December at Home. How can you say only 1 game was meaningful? Which was the meaningful game? When SD annhilated them on Oct 2?, When Indy crushed them on MNF on Nov 11?, or when KC easily beat them on November 27?

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 7:37pm

On the Pats losses:

It's even harder to keep players when you're winning. Do you think Givens and Branch and McGinest (not to mention Andruzzi, Washington, and others) would have gotten anywhere near the money they got offered if the Pats had gone 9-7 with no SB wins over the last five years? When you win, other teams are more likely to overpay for your players. You can't keep everyone, especially under the salary cap. The Pats chose to retain their starting QB, their DL, and their TE's, and focus their rebuilding efforts primarily on the O-line and RB positions. Maybe they could have been more aggressive going after WR's, LB's, or CB's, but then I guarantee you that they wouldn't have a HOF QB, a young but talented O-line, an impressive D-line of 1st rounders lead by another all star HOFer, and several very good TE's. Every team is going to end up with some positions better than others. Every now and then, you'll get a convergence where everyone happens to be pretty good, and then you'll be a truly great team ('03 Pats, Pre-superbowl '02 Raiders, '04 Steelers, etc). But for the most part, you're going to have holes. Then what matters is how you coach around them. That's what worries me about the Pats these last few games--they don't seem to be coaching around their holes.

by Don M (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 8:49pm

No Love for Brady
Let's be real. Tom Brady's heroics consist of things like this. Wait until great defense forces turnover. Look at scoreboard, 2:00 to go, down two points. lead great balanced offence with excellent gameplan to two first downs so that the best "the best clutch kicker in history" can nail a short FG to win the game. Faced with a task more like. My mediocre team is down fourteen and can't stop the run. He's suddenly the next Kurt Warner. (Who was the media's last darling "best ever" QB) The Mighty Pats have fallen back to the pack for now, and Brady is unmasked for his competence, he's darn competent not one of the all time greats.
Elway and Marino led their mediocre teams deep into the playoffs or to the superbowl, Manning and Mcnabb have lead theirs to Championship games and a superbowl. Brady managed not to blow it when he had a great team around him, I think in the second act of his career we'll see what he can do with an ordinary team or even a bad team hopefully in the future. (I'm an unrepentant Pats hater)

by mediator12 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 8:50pm

Thank you Ned for pointing out that Larry Coyer has been the best Defensive Coordiantor no one knows about in the NFL.

All he has done is set records in Denver. In addition to the 11 quarter streak, last year he set the Broncos single season Points allowed record. That was with Zero pass rush from the front four and refining the cover zero Blitz to destroy Philadelphia in week eight. The cover Zero is a risky strategy, but they had gotten a measely 4 sacks from the DL in 7 games.

He has taken abuse for those playoff losses to the Colts for sure, but he also was without his regular secondary in 2003 and 2004 going into the playoffs. You being a Colts fan, the mere mention of the name Roc Alexander should make you filled with joy.

He also had one of the most pathetic DL's in football going up against Manning in the RCA dome in the pre-field turf days. No pressure on Manning and poor coverage options equals Blowout.

Add into the fact the Broncos offense, which was fourth and fifth in those years got their ass handed to them by the weak Colts defenses of that era. In 2003, the Broncos stymied the Colts by applying ball control in that same dome. Denver did not score a TD or have a drive over 40 yards until the second half of those games either.

Thanks for the writeup. Personally, it was better than the anomaly of ATL versus the US in New Orleans.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 9:02pm

Re: #93

You should actually try watching some Patriots games over the past six years, instead of sock-puppeting for people like morganja.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 10:09pm

Re 95:
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re Coyer:
I'd heard his name but didn't know much about him. I did know that the Broncos had a good defense. I just didn't realize that the DLine couldn't get pressure. I also wasn't aware of how good Ian Gold is. I keep thinking he's just some fast guy but I guess he's pretty good.

by morganja (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:23pm

Re: 96 LOL. Great Mandy Patinkin reference.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:22am

91: Since you're nitpicking, I'll have to point out that the Pats/Chiefs game was in Kansas City, not Foxborough.

by Julio (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 8:29pm

Once again, just letting you know that
the officiating in Sunday's Denver/Pats
game was the worst that I have ever seen.

by Mike B (not verified) :: Fri, 09/29/2006 - 2:19am

89: As a Pats fan from New England I've gotta say, you've got us figured out. In Bill We Trust.

Pats critics never have a straight story. Does Brady make Belichick look good or does Belichick make Brady look good?

And can somebody please explain to me what the TMQ incident was? I'm new here.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/29/2006 - 10:49am

And can somebody please explain to me what the TMQ incident was? I’m new here.

I forget what the specifics where, but alot of us first heard about FO through a TMQ column (myself included).

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 09/29/2006 - 11:17am

And can somebody please explain to me what the TMQ incident was?
When TMQ got booted from ESPN on his first go-round there, he was guest-hosted at FO for a few weeks.