Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

Hannable: Sunday’s Patriots win over Broncos should make rest of NFL scared

Ryan Hannable
November 13, 2017 - 1:53 am

While it’s just one game, it appears the Patriots are close to what many expected them to be like at the beginning of the season.

Sunday’s 41-16 win on the road in Denver was the Patriots’ most complete game of the season and showed the team is trending towards playing its best football when it matters most — the end of the season.

This is why the rest of the NFL should be concerned.

Offensively, the Patriots hit the 40-point mark for the first time this season and had its most balanced attack. It also came without top receiver Chris Hogan, who was out with a shoulder injury.

Even without running back Mike Gillislee, the Patriots showed a strong commitment to the run, which helped prevent the Denver defense from getting after Tom Brady play-after-play. All three running backs (Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White) were equal contributors both on the ground and catching passes out of the backfield.

Going into the game, the Patriots were the No. 1 ranked offense in terms of yards, but were having issues in the red area so not scoring as many points as they should. That changed Sunday as the offense went 4-for-6 in the red zone. Tight end Dwayne Allen hauled in his first catch of the season for a touchdown in the red area, which could be a huge positive. If Allen can build some momentum, especially in the red area, it would be a huge plus for the stretch run.

Also, the newly acquired Martellus Bennett made his debut and even though he played just five snaps, he made the most of them by finishing with three catches. While Bennett likely isn’t 100 percent, and won’t be for the remainder of the season, New England knows him well enough to put him in the right positions to get the most out of him. 

Having a dependable tight end to play along with Rob Gronkowski is bad news for the rest of the league.

Defensively, the unit continues its major turnaround.

After four weeks of the season, the Patriots had the worst defense in football, but beginning in Tampa Bay in Week 5 the group has turned things around. Over the last five games, the defense is allowing an average of 13.4 points per game and hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in a single game.

It could also be said there will be some improvement with the group as well. Malcolm Butler had one of his worst performances of the year Sunday against Emmanuel Sanders, and likely won’t play like that the rest of the year. Also, Stephon Gilmore was up-and-down in his first game back after missing three games with a concussion. If his play against Tampa was any indication, he can be better as well.

New England’s defense has been very good of late and can get even better.

Last but not least, the Patriots’ special teams unit is one who can make an impact each and every week.

Against the Chargers, the game before the bye, the special teams group recorded a safety on a punt and played a huge part in the field position battle. Then in Denver, in the first half alone it recovered a muffed punt, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and blocked a punt.

Some teams don’t get that kind of production over the course of say half a season, but the Patriots got it in one half.

After a 2-2 start to go along with the start the Chiefs got off to, some were already a little concerned about how homefield advantage in the AFC would go, but after nine games, things are back to where they were expected to be.

New England is atop the AFC standings at 7-2 along with the Steelers, and it’s worth noting the two teams play in Week 15, which could decide who gets homefield throughout the playoffs.

The way the Patriots are playing now is bad news for the rest of the league because through eight weeks they weren’t the same Patriot team as in the past and that evened the playing field. If the Patriots play the way they did Sunday night in Denver, it’s hard to imagine a team beating them down the stretch.

The Patriots are back and that’s bad news for the rest of the league.

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