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PFF’s Best and Worst Patriots Performances in Denver



New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) in the first half of an NFL football game in Empower Field at Mile High Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The New England Patriots let a 16-point fourth quarter lead slip away on Sunday, only to win the game in dramatic fashion. Rookie placekicker Chad Ryland, who had missed both a field goal and extra point earlier in the game, drilled the game-winning field goal from 56 yards out for the 24-21 victory.

Pro Football Focus grades every player in all NFL games. This is a look at the highest and lowest graded New England Patriots players against the Denver Broncos.

PFF Grading System

Before getting into the best and worst Patriots performances from Sunday, a quick review of what the numbers represent. Their are five possible tiers a grade places a player in:

  • 100-90 = Elite
  • 89-85 = Pro Bowler
  • 84-70 = Starter
  • 69-60 = Backup
  • 59-0 = Replaceable

Best of Week 16

DL – Christian Barmore (91.8). Anybody who watched Sunday Night Football will not be surprised to learn Barmore was the highest graded Patriots player. He recorded 3.0 sacks and five stops, He also forced a fumble. Barmore has been dominant at times this season, but Sunday might was his best performance of the season.

ST – Marte Mapu (91.2). It should be noted that this grade is only for Mapu’s special teams play. He scored a 62.5 for his 17 snaps on defense. But as special teams player Mapu was elite. He made the play of the game for the special teams unit. Mapu made a tackle and forced a fumble on the Broncos kick return following the Patriots third quarter touchdown. Cody Davis scored on the fumble recovery, and New England’s lead was up to 16 points after the play.

QB – Bailey Zappe (88.9). Zappe played a great game. A lost fumble was his only major miscue, which came on the first offensive play. From then on he was locked in. He finished 25-of-33 passing. He finished with 256 passing yards, two touchdowns, and (most importantly) no interceptions. Zappe recorded the highest PFF grade for a New England Patriots QB since Week 10 of the 2021 season (Mac Jones, 92.5 vs. Cleveland).

RG – Sidy Sow (82.0). The rookie appears to have established himself as the Patriots right guard of the future. His 88.4 in run blocking was easily the highest grade on the team. He allowed two pressures in the game, but no QB hits or sacks. After two of his lowest graded games of the season, it was a nice bounce back game for Sow.

LB – Mack Wilson, Sr. (80.9). Wilson has been a staple of the highest-ranked Patriots players since He received grades over 80.0 in three of the past four games. Wilson played 23 defensive snaps, finishing with a sack, forced fumble, stop, and a hurry. He had no missed tackles.

Honorable Mention: DE Deatrich Wise, Jr., ST Adrian Phillips, DE Keion White, CB Jonathan Jones

Worst of Week 16

LB – Ja’Whaun Bentley (34.1). The New England Patriots captain struggled with both coverage and tackling against the Broncos. Bentley was the primary defender on five targets. Russell Wilson completed 5-of-5 attempts for 30 yards in those instances. He was credited with six tackles (five solo) but had four missed tackles. Bentley also recorded two pressures.

LG – Atonio Mafi (35.1). New England’s other rookie guard struggled in place of Cole Strange at left guard. However, James Ferentz (40.6) didn’t fare any better in his four snaps. Ferentz played two passing downs, and allowed a sack that caused a fumble. Mafi gave up no sacks, but he did allow four pressures (a QB hit and three pressures). He was whistled for three penalties. In nine games with significant snaps this season, Mafi has six grades below 40.0, with a high of 60.1.

SS – Jalen Mills (48.2). Mills played 62 defensive snaps, with Jabrill Peppers missing the game due to injury. He recorded six tackles (five solo) but had two missed tackles as well. Denver completed all three passes with Mills as the primary defender, for 27 yards (17 YAC). He had one QB hit.

LT – Vederian Lowe (50.1). With Trent Brown only playing 21 snaps, Lowe took the other 37. He was the lowest-graded run blocker (41.8) among the offensive linemen. He did better in pass protection, allowing only one pressure in 23 opportunities.

LB – Anfernee Jennings (51.3). Sunday night was Jennings second lowest-graded performance of the season. Since struggling in Week 10, he had received a 73.0 or better in four consecutive games prior to playing the Broncos. Jennings missed as many tackles (two) as he made in Denver. He allowed a completion with 11 YAC in his only play as the primary coverage man. He chipped in with one hurry and a stop.

Dishonorable Mention: TE Mike Gesicki, ST Chris Board, ST Joe Cardona, ST Brendan Schooler, ST Pharaoh Brown