Patriots postgame winners and losers vs. Broncos: Injury thrusts Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard into spotlight
Next man up reached the end of the line.
The New England Patriots were simply outmanned as they lost the AFC Championship, 26-16 to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday.
When cornerback Aqib Talib went down with a knee injury in the first half, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick called it "a key play in the game." That injury caused a seismic shift in the secondary that thrust Alfonzo Dennard into coverage of Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, and Logan Ryan into coverage on Eric Decker.
Here's a look at the players who gave the Patriots a chance to win, and others who brought the team down on their road to the Super Bowl.
Julian Edelman: Finished the game with 10 catches, the only Patriots receiver to have over five catches on the game, and it could have been more if Brady hadn't overthrown him on a deep pass in the first quarter. Edelman enters free agency this offseason, and is one of the key Patriots players whose contract is running up.
Ryan Allen: Had punts of 60, 55 and 32 yards in the first half -- all three landing the Broncos inside the 20-yard line -- that helped keep the Broncos at bay, if only temporarily. There were questions as to whether Allen would even be ready, but his performance was a big reason why this game didn't get out of hand.
Jamie Collins: Once again made plays all over the field, with seven total tackles (six solo, one assist), a tackle for loss and a pass-defensed, and also had the Patriots' only quarterback hit of the game. The linebacker was victimized on one big gain by Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, but his athleticism showed up in spots, and the Patriots have clearly found a building block for their defense.
Logan Ryan/Alfonzo Dennard: Ryan was picked on continually when Talib came out of the game, primarily when in coverage on Decker. Likewise, Dennard was victimized when covering Demaryius Thomas. The ripple effect of the injury to Talib was easily spotted on Sunday.
LeGarrette Blount: The Patriots's running game has been a huge part of their success of late, led mainly by Blount, but the bruiser picked up just six yards on five carries over the course of the game, and the Patriots picked up just 64 yards rushing on 16 carries (4.0 YPA).
Defensive line: Although the Patriots were often rushing just three defenders, the Patriots hardly generated any pressure on Manning. The Patriots got just one hit on Manning the entire game, and didn't get a single sack. The defensive line has been hit hard with injuries this year, and their lack of depth -- and talent -- showed up all day on Sunday.
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