Fumbles doom Broncos in 31-21 loss to Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
The Denver Broncos' opening drive ended when Demaryius Thomas fumbled
away a 43-yard reception at the New England 10-yard line.
Their last one stopped when Willis McGahee coughed it up at the
got to do better than that,'' said McGahee, who also dropped a pass on
fourth and 1 in the fourth quarter. ''I think that changed the game,
and I take full credit for that.''
Peyton Manning threw for 345
yards and three touchdowns Sunday, but he was also strip-sacked in the
third quarter as the Patriots forced three fumbles to open a 24-point
lead and win 31-21. Thomas caught nine passes for 188 yards, and
McGahee had 51 yards rushing and 51 more receiving, but each also had a
key turnover deep in New England territory.
''Any time you turn
the ball over, it hurts you,'' Broncos coach John Fox said. ''You go on
the road tonight, against a very good football team and particularly
offensively in their tempo and their skill set, makes for tough
slugging. I mean, our guys hung in there and fought back, but at the
end of the day, it is still minus-two (in turnover differential). That
usually relates in a point differential.''
In the 13th meeting
between the star quarterbacks - and first since Manning joined the
Broncos - Brady directed four scoring drives of at least 80 yards. He
completed 23 of 31 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown and ran for
another while opening a 31-7 lead in the third quarter.
is not a team you want to fall behind to,'' said Manning, who was 31 of
44 while falling to 4-9 in his career against the Patriots. ''We had a
couple of chances in the first half to score some points. ... You have
to be able to convert opportunities when they present themselves.''
fumble led to Stevan Ridley's 8-yard run that put the Patriots (3-2)
ahead 31-7 with about five minutes left in the third quarter. Ridley
led the Patriots with a career-high 151 yards rushing.
then threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Eric Decker and 5 yards to
Brandon Stokley but Denver (2-3) lost the ball on McGahee's fumble with
The Patriots set a franchise record with 35
first downs as they kept their offense rolling one week after gaining
580 yards, 247 on the ground, in a 52-28 rout of the Buffalo Bills. The
Broncos sputtered after beating the Oakland Raiders 37-6.
and Manning first faced each other in the third game of the 2001
season. The Patriots won 44-13 in Brady's first career start.
were plenty of close games in subsequent regular-season matchups with
six of the previous seven decided by seven points or less. Sunday's
outcome was different, although Manning brought the Broncos back from a
24-point deficit in the second half.
His scoring pass to Stokley followed a fumble by Brady on a sack.
then lost a fumble on New England's next possession and Manning seemed
poised to keep the comeback going. A 28-yard completion to Demaryius
Thomas put the ball at the Patriots' 14 but two plays later McGahee
fumbled and Jermaine Cunningham recovered at the New England 11.
Patriots led 17-7 at halftime and 31-7 after three quarters. Brady and
his runners kept slicing through the Denver defense with a balanced
attack. They went ahead to stay, 14-7, midway through the second
quarter on a 14-play drive (seven pass plays and seven runs) capped by
Shane Vereen's 1-yard run.
Ridley had the third 100-yard rushing
game of his career, all this season. Wes Welker, the NFL's leading
receiver last year with 122 catches, had 13 for 104 yards.
Broncos wasted an excellent opportunity on their first series. Manning
hit Thomas with a 43-yard completion to the Patriots 10-yard line, but
Sterling Moore stripped the ball and recovered the fumble. The Patriots
went four-and-out on the ensuing possession then the Patriots scored on
their next three possessions - 84 yards to Brady's 8-yard pass to
Welker, 80 yards to Vereen's touchdown and 93 yards to Stephen
Gostkowski's 23-yard field goal.
Denver did tie the game 7-7 on
Manning's 1-yard pass to Joel Dreessen but didn't reach the end zone
again until Manning hit Decker to end a 90-yard march, cutting the lead
to 31-14 with 1:08 left in the third.
The Patriot even got key
plays from their backup running backs. Brandon Bolden had a 24-yard
gain on the series leading to Gostkowski's field goal. On that same
drive, Danny Woodhead gained 25 yards on a pass from Brady on a
third-and-14 play from the Broncos' 11.
Woodhead kept another
drive going in the third quarter with a 19-yard rush on third-and-17 at
the Patriots 43. That series ended with Brady's touchdown dive.