FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots’ offense is rolling again as it heads into a game against a team whose defense it dominated twice last season.
Since then, of course, the Denver Broncos have made significant changes in the unit that allowed an average of 43 points and 480 yards in those two meetings.
But did they improve enough to control an attack that became just the second in NFL history with a 300-yard passer, and two runners and two receivers who gained at least 100 yards in the same game — last Sunday’s 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills?
“The more balanced that you can be, then the less (the defense) can say, ‘Well, we’re just going to concentrate on this one thing,’” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “because you’ve shown them too many other things that they have to defend.”
The Broncos (2-2) have a new coordinator, Jack Del Rio, and four new starters on defense — cornerback Tracy Porter, safety Mike Adams, tackle Justin Bannan and end Derek Wolfe. And they still have pass rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.
That defense was solid in last Sunday’s 37-6 rout of the Oakland Raiders, allowing just 237 yards. But Tom Brady and the Patriots (2-2) pose a much more formidable challenge on Sunday. They beat the Broncos 41-23 in December and 45-10 in the divisional playoffs in January.
Denver’s defense, though, isn’t the same. It blitzes more than it did last year and has given up fewer than 285 yards in three of its four games.
“They’re active. They’re very fast. Their secondary is quite different than what we played back in January,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Denver’s former head coach. “We have to do a good job of trying to defend, if you will, all the different things that they throw at you and try to make sure we stay out of long-yardage situations and hopefully can try to settle the game down that way.”