Check out the best shots from Sunday's game in Foxborough.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A tough loss in Foxborough was a disappointing setback from the Broncos, but there were some important takeaways to keep in mind moving forward.
ROBY MAKING PLAYS
Bradley Roby's rookie transition has been impressive thus far, punctuated by a great performance against the Jets in Week 6. Sunday against the Patriots, he had some up and down moments, but he came up with a few huge plays that had the potential to help the Broncos flip the game around.
Roby was called for pass interference on a short pass early in the third quarter, but he bounced back in a big way. Two plays after the penalty, Roby elevated on a pass down the sideline to Shane Vereen and knocked it away. On the next snap, Tom Brady's pass was nicked by Derek Wolfe at the line and glanced off Danny Amendola's hands, with Roby diving to scoop the interception. The Broncos' offense was able to turn the turnover into a quick touchdown. Though the rookie was beaten for a 10-yard touchdown on a short field a few possessions later, he almost created another turnover later in the third.
Brady threw a short pass to James Develin in the left flat and the 6-foot-3, 255 pound fullback turned upfield to find the 5-foot-11, 192 pound Roby flying at him. Roby attacked the much bigger ball carrier with ferocity and actually jarred the ball free -- the NFL's official gamebook didn't credit him with a forced fumble on the play, perhaps because the fumble wasn't obvious. The loose football somehow stayed within Develin's legs, where he was able to corral it just in time, but if the ball bounced a bit differently, five Broncos lurked around the ball ready to pounce. In a 16-point game with more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the potential turnover could have jumpstarted a Broncos comeback.
All rookie corners will have their ups and downs, but plays like those Roby made Sunday are promising signs for the future.
THOMAS BACK ON TOUCHDOWN TRAIN
Julius Thomas' blistering start to the 2014 season (nine touchdowns in the first five games) made his two-game stretch without a score -- in games where the Broncos scored 77 points no less – seem a bit uncharacteristic. With the Broncos having only two healthy tight ends against the Patriots, Thomas spent more time pass blocking than usual, but was still able to find paydirt, hauling in an 18-yard touchdown from Peyton Manning down the right sideline in the third quarter.
Manning said that the Patriots didn't seem to do anything specific to take the fourth-year weapon away, but he noted after the game that he was disappointed he couldn't find Thomas for more catches.
"I've got to find a way to get him the ball," Manning said. "He's a playmaker and so I probably should have gotten the ball to him more with some different things and whatever plays were called, find a way just to get him involved. That's something that I could have done better because I feel like we're at our best when I'm getting him involved."
ANDERSON GETTING INVOLVED
After seeing little action in recent weeks, C.J. Anderson was able to flash his abilities a bit in the second half of Sunday's game. Anderson had nine carries for 58 yards through the first two weeks of the season, but got the ball just five times over the next four games.
With the Broncos throwing to catch up against the Patriots, Anderson still only got three carries Sunday, but turned those into a healthy 18 yards. He also saw opportunities as a receiver, catching three passes for 33 yards, including a bruising, 24-yard run after catch in which he ran over multiple New England defenders.
Six touches for 51 total yards is excellent production for the limited reps Anderson received (18 offensive snaps). Combined with the explosion Ronnie Hillman has demonstrated in recent weeks and the vision and power from rookie Juwan Thompson, Anderson's abilities make for a well-rounded backfield that will only improve when Montee Ball returns from injury.
WEATHER NOT MUCH OF A FACTOR
Despite the morning blizzard that covered Gillette Stadium in snow, Mother Nature didn't have a tremendous impact on Sunday's game, other than an occasionally slippery field or a slick football.
Winds were expected to gust up to 40 mph and hold steady near 20 mph throughout the game, but that didn't seem to affect either team's passing game. More than half (220 out of 429) of the Broncos' passing yards came in the first and fourth quarters, when they were heading into the wind. Likewise, the Patriots put up 224 of their 332 passing yards when facing the gusts in the second and third quarters.
"I didn't feel like it (was a factor)," Manning said. "I felt like I kinda was throwing it where I wanted to." Perhaps some of the slips that occurred were a product of snow falling on the field -- which wasn't covered with a tarp because the wind was too strong -- prior to the game, and the slick surface seemed to slow the pass rush a bit. The football also looked slick at times, most notably on Britton Colquitt's fumbled snap, which he managed to recover and punt away anyway. Still, there weren't any obvious game-swinging plays that seemed to be a product of the weather.