Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis lead way with dynamic play on special teams

DENVER -- Without the benefit of film review, here is an initial look at which New England Patriots were “up” and “down” from their 41-16 win over the Denver Broncos.


Rex Burkhead/special teams: Continuing to see expanded snaps as he rounds into form after missing four games due to a rib injury, Burkhead caught a 14-yard pass for a touchdown and blocked a punt. He finished with three catches for 27 yards, and added 10 carries for 36 yards. Of the blocked punt, he said, "We had a rush called. I rushed on the outside and it just kind of opened up. The guy, he tried to block me up high or something and Brandon [King] did a great job of widening his guy outside."

Dion Lewis/special teams: His 103-yard kickoff return was electric, and a credit to the entire kickoff-return unit: Jacob Hollister, Marquis Flowers, Jordan Richards, Brandon King, Brandon Bolden, Trevor Reilly, Nate Ebner, James Develin, Dwayne Allen, Matthew Slater and Lewis. "We were loving it, we were running up the sideline," Burkhead said of Lewis' dazzling effort. "That's a big momentum play. D-Lew is an explosive player."

James Develin: Playing a season-high 45 offensive snaps, which seemed to be tied to the Patriots' wanting to attack the Broncos’ base defense, he was instrumental in getting the running game going and bringing his trademark physical approach to the team.

Tom Brady -- He finished 25-of-34 for 266 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, as the large Patriots contingent at the game began chanting "MVP! MVP! MVP!" at one point. His decision-making and accuracy was as good as it's been all season.

LaAdrian Waddle/offensive line: Filling in for starting right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) against Von Miller and a challenging defensive front, Waddle was hardly heard from, which means he did his job well. That’s becoming a common occurrence when he’s called upon.

Bill Belichick: Career win No. 270 pulls him into a third-place tie with Tom Landry on the all-time head coaches list. Only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) have more victories.


Malcolm Butler: The cornerback had some early struggles against Emmanuel Sanders, who was the Broncos’ most productive player in the game. Later, Butler had more competitive coverage, but Sanders, to his credit, still made the plays.

James White: The normally reliable third-down back missed on a blitz pickup and then came up short on a third-down run when there might have been an opportunity for more.

Pass rush: Not enough pressure on Brock Osweiler, which made things tighter than they had to be at times.