By Justin Henry
Cold Hard Football Facts' Dr. Death (@jrhwriting)
Tom Brady now leads the lifetime series against Peyton Manning 10-5, but the fifth loss occurred Sunday afternoon, nullifying not only that 10th win, a historic November 24 comeback, but a trip to the Super Bowl as well.
With much of the focus on his era-defining rivalry with Manning, the world saw 'Tom Terrific' get handily outplayed.
The Patriots fell to the Broncos 26-16 in the AFC Championship Game, falling short of the big game for the second-straight season, and adding to a now-nine-year streak of not winning the Super Bowl altogether.
It was a game marked by surprising ineffectiveness on the Patriots side, not getting out of the blocks until long after Denver built its lead.
1. Brady Victimized, Forced Into Short Game
On the surface, Brady had himself a solid game. His stat line included a 93.86 passer rating, a touchdown, no picks, and over 63 percent of his passes completed. The biggest detriment to his game were in sacks, two major ones, and relative shortness of his throws.
Brady averaged 7.29 yards a throw, which isn't bad, but with the sacks considered (21 yards lost), he averaged only 6.40 Real Passing Yards Per Attempt. Brady averaged only 6.12 RPYPA for the year, but Denver's D was able to prey on the short tosses, and frustrate early.
2. Run Fizzles, Abandoned Anyway
There would be no cleat-stomping from the burning feet of LeGarrette Blount; the Broncos aren't the Keystone Colts, and only gave up six yards on five carries to 'Beast Mode of the East'. In all, the Patriots merely averaged four yards a carry, but there's more to it.
The Patriots only ran 16 times for the entire game, for a total of 64 yards. New England also only had one run of more than ten yards (Shane Vereen for 11). As Denver steadily built their impressive lead, New England went one dimensional, a big part of their downfall.
3. Clock Was the Enemy
While Denver's run didn't set the world ablaze (107 yards on 28 carries), it served its necessary function of sustaining drives. Manning's day throwing converted 21 first downs, and the run netted five, but the ground game helped the patient "Sheriff" run time out.
The Patriots were manhandled by the clock, as the Broncos took off 35:44, compared to New England's threadbare 24:16. The Broncos only punted once, finishing drives with some sort of points, while New England's defense was gashed, leaving little time to find an edge.