There's nothing quite like waking up the morning after a miraculous win! Everyone is buzzing about your team and you get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, they could be on their way to winning it all. However, despite how good things feel right now, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Patriots Nation had the complete opposite feeling as our boys trotted into the locker room at half time last night.
Yes, there was plenty of bad to go around with last night's good ending. So without further ado, here are your Week 12 Risers and Fallers.
Tom Brady (QB) – In the Brady/Manning feud, Tom Brady now holds a 10-4 advantage. After last night, you could make an argument that the case is now closed. The two quarterbacks had very little to do with the Broncos jumping out to a 17-0 lead. The 34-31 final score, however, had everything to do with the men behind center. On a night where Peyton Manning failed to move the ball in wretched conditions, Tom Brady made it seem like they were playing on a warm September afternoon. His spirals were crisp and accurate and he managed to march his team down the field on three successive drives to start the 3rd quarter, going into the swirling wind. While he's certainly had nights where he's put up some ridiculous "video game" numbers, this game was about as good as we've seen from Tom Brady in terms of running the offense, making plays, and simply getting the job done.
Julian Edelman (WR) – After an off-season of non-stop Welker/Amendola debate, it was the unheralded Julian Edelman who was difference-maker. He came up with two huge touchdown grabs and more than tripled Welker's production on the night.
Aqib Talib (DB) – After "falling" last week in his battle with Steve Smith, Aqib Talib bounced back to form, blanketing Demaryius Thomas and providing the shut-down coverage that the Patriots so desperately needed.
Brandon Bolden (RB) – After Ridley and Blount fumbled away their opportunities to play, Brandon Bolden stepped in and was a serviceable replacement. He had a touchdown run, and most importantly, hung onto the ball when his number was called.
Chandler Jones (DE) – Jones came through with some swarming defense that kept Manning on his toes all night. We may be seeing "the leap" that we were hoping for from this 2nd year player. He was just a disruptive force all night long, and probably would have been more so if he weren't getting held like a baby all night by the Broncos offensive line.
Rob Gronkowski (TE) – Once again, Gronk was back to his physical dominating form, doling out punishing blows on any defender who dared to cross his path. His touchdown catch that was capped off by an insane screaming match with Brady just may have been the highlight of the night.
Brandon Spikes (LB) – Once the Broncos tipped their hands and showed that they were going with a running-based attack, Belichick countered by inserting Spikes into the lineup. Overall, the run defense wasn't pretty last night, but Spikes managed to make himself known with some big-time tackles.
Dane Fletcher (LB) – After playing an unsung role for most of the season, Fletcher made the most of his opportunities, proving to be a disruptive force in both the running and passing game.
Logan Ryan (DB) – The rookie came up with a critical pick of Peyton Manning and is proving game by game that he should be a fixture in the New England secondary for years to come.
Bill Belichick (HC) – His bold move to let the Broncos start with the ball so that he could have the wind was a bold, but ultimately wise move. It directly played a role in not only keeping Manning and the Broncos out of field goal range, but also in the eventual botched punt return that would seal the game for the Patriots.
Stevan Ridley (RB) – His second fumble in as many games started the avalanche rolling down onto the Patriots. Ridley is by far the most talented runner on the team, but his latest two mistakes have cost the team 14 points. When you lose by four to Carolina and need overtime to beat the Broncos by three, it becomes clear that repeated mistakes like that are intolerable.
LeGarrette Blount (RB) – It's possible that he may have be knocked unconscious or at least had his eggs scrambled on his fumble, but again, drops like that in the running game could end this team's season in January. Ball security is of paramount importance for the Patriots success down the stretch.
Nate Solder (LT) – Solder got toasted on more than one occassion by Von Miller and his inability to stop the Denver pass rush was a big reason behind not only Brady's 1st quarter fumble, but the overall struggles of the offense during the first half in general.
Wes Welker (Traitor WR) – There's a humours thread on Reddit about how Bill Belichick sends his former players and coaches out as double-agents to secretly destroy his opponents from within. Welker's botched punt return at the end of the game will only add fuel to that fire. Overall, Wes had a fairly pedestrian game that was scattered with several dropped passes. Needless to say, Wes didn't do much to cause Patriots fans to long for him back on the roster last night.
Peyton Manning (2nd Best QB of his Era) – As if the Patriots's miraculous comeback wasn't enough to bring joy to us last night, we also had the added bonus of shot after shot of Peyton Manning looking dejected, with that giant red mark on his forehead where his helmet presses into his monsterous forehead.