In what has typical been a very difficult game, the New England Patriots (12-2) handled the Denver Broncos (8-6) fairly easily with a 16-3 victory. The offense wasn't pretty in this game by either team, but the Patriots got what they needed to leave with a victory. Like any game, more things stuck out than others.
1. Clinched - The most obvious takeaway from this game for the Patriots was the fact that with the victory they clinched the AFC East title. The clinching didn't stop there, the victory also gave New England a first round bye in the playoffs. Things aren't finished quite yet though. Locking up home-field advantage is up next for the Patriots. This is the seventh straight season that New England has had at least a first round bye in the playoffs.
2. Trey Flowers - The emergence of Flowers has been a welcome development for the Patriots defense. The second year defensive end picked up another two sacks in the victory. He now has seven sacks this season. Those seven sacks give him the team lead. His emergence has been part of what has made the New England defense look so good in recent weeks,
3. Dion Lewis - Typically this season when a running back has had a good game it has been LeGarrette Blouunt. This wasn't the case on Sunday. Lewis was the leading rusher for the Patriots on Sunday. He had 18 carries for 95 yards and added two more catches for nine yards. Having another running back capbale of carrying the load for the rushing offense is certainly a welcome addition for the Patriots.
4. LeGarrette Blount - It was a quite day for Blount as he managed only 31 yards on 17 carries. Despite that, it was still a day that saw Blount rerwrite the record book for New England. Blount scored a touchdown in the second quarter that gave him 15 rushing touchdowns on the season. That broke Curtis Martin's record that has stood for 21 years.
5. Defense - They may have been facing one of the weaker offenses in the NFL, but the defense of the Patriots played strong on Sunday. The unit held Denver to only 309 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers. Matt Patricia's defense also racked up four sacks. A Logan Ryan interception in the redzone in the second quarter may have changed the flow of the game.
6. Kyle Van Noy - Like Flowers, the emergence of Van Noy has been a big development for the defense. Van Noy was second on the team in tackles on Sunday. He finished with six tackles four of which were solo. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Van Noy has flourished in the Patriots defense.
Extra Point - With a first round bye now locked up, an interesting scenario could play out in week 17. If the Patriots can take care of business and have home-field advantage locked up prior to taking the field in week 17, New England could essentially determine who gets the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. If Bill Belichick elects to rest players in week 17, the Miami Dolphins could have an inside track at the conference's final playoff spot. It may come down to who Belichick ultimately determines to pose the most minor threat in the playoffs.