BOSTON (CBS) -- Maybe I'm crazy, but I expected better out of Peyton Manning.
Oh, sure, the man put up marvelous fantasy numbers, throwing for 438 yards and a pair of touchdowns, yet he failed time and time again to make a big play, to convert on third or fourth down, to avoid interceptions, to deliver passes with authority, as he was once again outshined by his counterpart wearing No. 12.
By the end of the 43-21 beatdown, Manning's record in the lovely town of Foxboro fell to 2-8. In those 10 games, he's thrown 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He's thrown zero interceptions just once in those 10 games in Foxboro Stadium/Gillette Stadium.
It doesn't help his case that Brady has been significantly better on the other side, throwing for 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In his 10 games, Brady's gone without an interception six times in the matchups at home against Manning.
And so it is, whether it's Ty Law up the sideline, Rodney Harrison standing in the end zone, James Sanders in the final minute or Rob Ninkovich dropping into coverage, the Patriots' home continues to be a house of horrors for Manning, one of the great passers of all time who melts when visiting the home of Bill Belichick.
"Oh, I don't know. I mean, this is 2014, and I thought in today's game they were better than us," Manning said when asked what it is about playing in Foxboro. "I'm sure ... I guess I'm not smart enough to draw that many connections. I kind of take them one year at a time. [There are] different players and we didn't on offense do the things we talked about doing. That starts with me – I've got to play better. That's pretty plain and simple. When the quarterback stinks, usually you're not going to win too many games."
No, sir, you're not. And for as long as Manning will be playing in Foxboro, the quarterback is most likely going to stink.
Putting aside the disappointment that we all didn't get to see a closer game, let's dive headfirst into the leftover thoughts from the Patriots' 43-21 win over the Broncos.
--The tone was set very early at Gillette Stadium. It was set when Kyle Arrington came flying in to close on Ronnie Hillman on the first play from scrimmage, a play that ended with eight blue jerseys surrounding the ball carrier.
It continued to be set a minute later, when the raucous crowd forced Manning into a delay of game penalty.
The Patriots, with an assist to the fans, let Manning and the Broncos know very early on that nothing would be coming easy on this day.
--I didn't think T.J. Ward's takeout shot on Rob Gronkowski last season was intentional or dirty, but after Sunday's shenanigans, I'm not so sure. On Gronkowski's first catch of the afternoon, he ran free over the middle of the field. Ward had a chance to square him up but instead went dive-bombing directly at Gronkowski's planted right knee -- aka the same right knee that Ward destroyed last season. Gronkowski was aware enough to quickly lift his leg off the turf before impact, leading to an artful helicopter spin.
But when Ward got up clapping his hands, preening after the "tackle," it was pretty evident that this was a garbage attempt to either injure Gronkowski or get him rattled.
It obviously failed on both accounts, making T.J. Ward just look like a lousy guy.
--I think Julian Edelman made Ward look even worse late in the second quarter, when the receiver lulled Ward to sleep before simply stepping away and coming up with a huge 26-yard catch.
None of this prevented Ward from goofing around with Aqib Talib in the losing locker room after giving up 43 points. Defensive backs are just a different breed, I guess.
--Brandon LaFell atoned for his dropped touchdown, but man oh man, you've got to make this catch:
(Fair warning, this next part may get a tad lengthy and may fall into the "Rant" category, but if I may...)
--LaFell also came within inches -- or perhaps centimeters -- of coming down with two deep balls from Brady. The first came in the game's opening minutes, with the ball appearing to fall right between LaFell's arms.
The second came on the third offensive snap of the second half, this one hitting LaFell in the left hand as he fell to the turf. The reaction to these passes on Twitter went as follows:
1. LaFell has to catch that pass.
2. WHY IS EVERYBODY BLAMING LAFELL?! THAT PASS WAS OVERTHROWN BY BRADY! WHY DOES NOBODY EVER CRITICIZE BRADY?! THOSE WERE BAD PASSES!
For the life of me, I can never understand this phenomenon. It's as if some people cannot sleep at night unless a sufficient number of people criticize Brady for imperfect passes. These people are psychopaths -- and they're in for some weird viewing experiences once Brady is gone and retired. "Oh," they will say, "so this is what bad quarterbacking looks like."
But what really gets me is that so many people fail to recognize that on a deep pass, the quarterback can only do so much. As a quarterback, you put that ball in a spot. The rest is up to the receiver to find it and then go and get it. Is it possible for the QB to overthrow the receiver? Of course. But when it comes down to the football being an inch away from the receiver's hands, the QB did just about everything right.
For example, look no further than Demaryius Thomas' grab early in the fourth quarter. Devin McCourty had perfect coverage on the receiver when Manning floated a deep ball up the left seam. But Thomas didn't care. He found the football, adjusted to it and worked his body around the defender to make the catch.
That was not a perfect throw from Manning by any means, yet it was good for a 41-yard completion. Are you seeing how this works now? Good.
--OK, not quite over: The people who kvetch about Brady dodging criticism, if they want to be fair, should argue that Brady gets more credit when he delivers subtly perfect passes in huge situations.
Case/point: Fourth-and-5 from the Denver 37-yard line. The Patriots, leading 27-14 midway through the third quarter, decide to go for it. Brady stands alone in the shotgun, with three receivers lined up wide left and Shane Vereen stacked behind Gronkowski on the right side. Vereen darts toward the right sideline before spinning toward the middle of the field on a slant. Rahim Moore has perfect coverage on Vereen, yet Brady throws it to his running back anyway, fitting the ball into the tiniest of windows, hitting Vereen in the chest and keeping the drive alive.
That's a pass that very few men can make, yet Brady does it with nary a mention.
On the flip side, Manning's offense went 0-for-4 on fourth down and 3-for-11 on third down. It's plays like this one that don't end up in highlight packages but nevertheless prove how one quarterback can post huge stats and still lose by 22 points.
--I was thoroughly entertained by the tweet binge of Bob Ryan, the Boston sports pope.
--Peyton Manning accepted blame for his interception to Rob Ninkovich, and everyone said the standard "oh class act Manning taking blame accepting responsibility yee-haw giddy-up, tiger!" And yeah, he did admit that it was a terrible mistake to make. But I was tickled by the fact that A) he kept getting asked about it, and B) he refused to admit that he got fooled by the defense.
"I don't think I can say it much plainer than what I've been saying," Manning replied after being asked about the pick for the third time. "It was bad, bad football. I guess take it as you want to take it, I guess. I don't know if I was necessarily fooled. It was just a bad decision I guess."
You were fooled, bro. You looked at this:
And then you threw this:
(Using my best Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting" voice) You were fooled. My man, my dude, you were fooled. Seriously though, you were fooled. OK? You were fooled, dawg.
The entire game shifted with that one bad, bad mistake, as a 7-6 Denver lead quickly evaporated. All because Manning, even though he can't admit it, was fooled.
--Manning also should have come out and accepted blame for the second interception. Yes, it hit Wes Welker in the chest, but it also floated in the air for about 12 minutes. Welker knew he was going to get leveled, and sure enough he was. That's a terrible pass that sets up his receiver to get injured, and it furthers the point that CSNNE's Tom E. Curran made in the preseason.
There was another pass that came in the fourth quarter that just looked bad. Emmanuel Sanders gained himself about five yards of separation from Malcolm Butler. But Manning's pass had to travel about 17 yards to get to the receiver, and it took 1.38 seconds to get there. It allowed Butler to close the gap and break up the pass.
Alas, it is Brady, the man whose arm strength has never lessened, who is in decline, according to the experts.
Manning keeps putting up the stats, and to be sure, he's an incredible quarterback. The fact that he can continue to produce despite that lack of arm strength is a testament to his brilliance. But look at his 438 passing yards and ask yourself if you're impressed. You can't be.
--This really made it feel like a throwback evening in Foxboro:
Remember the old days, when Sean Salisbury used to always pick Manning and the Colts, and the Patriots always won? Then he finally smartened up and picked the Pats in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, and the Patriots finally lost one. The franchise changed that day, so it was nice to see it get back to its roots on Sunday.
--Remember Sean Salisbury?
--Once again, Julian Edelman cannot get tackled like a normal player. Instead, he must suffer through a neck-breaking twist in order to catch a touchdown.
The poor guy can't catch a break. He ought to start a #PleaseTackleMeNormally campaign on Twitter or something, anything to try to lessen that level of punishment.
--Last week, I pointed out how Tom Brady said he spent the offseason watching the Russell Wilsons and Colin Kaepernicks of the world and their ability to throw on the run. Brady said he decided that he wanted to get better at it, and now he keeps busting it out like a shiny new Rolex every chance he gets.
It really never has been his game to run out of the pocket and deliver darts on the run, but he's been doing it with regularity over the past few weeks. The idea of him adding yet another dimension to his game is not a development that opposing defenses are going to be too happy about.
--Danny Amendola came up with a big 14-yard catch on a third-and-11 to move the chains and keep a drive alive. It was the drive that ended with Gronkowski's circus catch and then his 1-yard touchdown, and it was all made possible by Amendola.
Unfortunately, as Amendola went down to the turf with the football, the Gillette Stadium announcer came over the speakers and declared the catch was made by Julian Edelman.
He quickly corrected himself, but still, poor Danny Boy. Comes up in a big spot and people just assume the white guy was Edelman. That's tough.
--Speaking of Amendola, his two catches for 35 yards weren't the stuff of a big-money superstar, but both of those receptions came on third downs, and both kept drives moving. The first led to a field goal in a drive when the Patriots needed to score following a Broncos touchdown drive, and the second led to the back-breaking final touchdown of the night. Plus, Bill Belichick was eager to credit Amendola's blocking on the Edelman punt return for a touchdown. It's been a quiet year for Amendola, and it's evident that he's not going to live up to that contract. But I think the Patriots will be content to get that kind of contribution out of No. 80 going forward.
--Oh, and after Edelman's second touchdown catch (the one that got reversed via replay review), I saw two prominent media members on Twitter refer to Edelman as Welker. Come on, people!
--I can't rightfully continue without going on about that circus catch. I mean ... Rob, my dude, listen. If you want to throw people off the scent that you're from a different planet, making catches that human beings simply cannot make is not the way to do it, OK? Let that one go, or the folks from Roswell are going to start knocking on your front door.
Just ... no.
--Oh, and before I forget, here is your government-mandated weekly screen shot of Rob Gronkowski dragging a pile of helpless opponents to the turf with him.
When it comes to tackling No. 87, it truly takes a village.
--The thing that really stinks about Gillette Stadium is that people have to leave early because it takes so long to get out of there. It really stinks and it gives the region a bad reputation when all those empty seats are out there on TV. But I don't blame the fans who save themselves 90 minutes or more of misery. The stadium itself is glorious, and the whole Patriot Place metropolis that has popped up is very nice, but the roadways just stink.
(The people in the red seats obviously don't help much in the way of creating an atmosphere, but hey, you gotta make your money.)
--There was one point in the second quarter when Manning signaled toward the right side of the field before the snap. This "signal" involved him putting his hands between his legs and squatting. It looked like he was taking a doody.
I know Manning struggles in Foxboro, but that was a little graphic.
--I'm not a smart man. If you regularly read my stories, you knew this. So you can imagine my confusion when this sheet was dropped on my workspace prior to the game on Sunday. I literally stared at it 100 times, trying to figure out how a four-game win streak can turn into a six-game win streak in just one day. I assumed it was my mistake, so I spent upwards of five minutes trying to see what I was missing.
But who am I to argue with a fancy, official-looking sheet of paper? Congratulations to the Patriots for pulling off such an incredible accomplishment. I knew Tom Brady was pretty good, but wow. There is no limits to what that man can do.
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