FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tom Brady and the New England Patriots hurried to beat the Denver Broncos.
Brady led four scoring drives of at least 80 yards while using a no-huddle offense for most of the first three quarters and won his marquee matchup with Peyton Manning, 31-21 on Sunday.
The pregame hype surrounded the meeting of star quarterbacks, but for Brady it was a team victory.
“It’s Patriots-Broncos,” he said. “It was a great team win. We got some turnovers from our defense and I thought offensively capitalized at times.”
The up-tempo attack helped.
“We’re just trying to put a lot of pressure on those guys to get their calls in and line up and play against us,” Brady said. “We can go pretty fast at home if we can communicate really well.”
Even Manning, no slouch at operating without a huddle, was impressed.
“They certainly did a good job of staying on the field,” he said.
The Patriots had a more than 11-minute lead in time of possession, 35:49 to 24:11, even though Denver had studied their fast pace. The Broncos still had trouble making substitutions to fit the plays they thought the Patriots would run.
“It caught us off guard,” linebacker Joe Mays said. “We knew they were fast and that they were going to get to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball, but it’s different seeing them on film and playing against them.”
The Patriots (3-2) ran 54 times for 251 yards, led by Stevan Ridley‘s career-high 151, and Brady threw 31 passes, completing 23 for 223 yards and a touchdown. The defense sacked Manning twice and recovered three fumbles. One led to a touchdown and the other ended a drive at the New England 11-yard line with 3:42 left after Denver had rallied from a 31-7 deficit in the third quarter.
“Any time you turn the ball over, it hurts you,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “You go on the road … against a very good football team and, particularly offensively in their tempo and their skill set, makes for tough slugging.”
Brady is 9-4 against Manning, who left the Indianapolis Colts after missing all of last season following neck surgery.
Manning was 31 of 44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns but lost a fumble on a third-quarter sack.
“This is not a team you want to fall behind to,” he said after failing to pull off his 37th fourth-quarter comeback.
The Broncos (2-3) cut into a 31-7 deficit with about five minutes left in the third quarter on Manning’s scoring passes of 2 yards to Eric Decker and 5 yards to Brandon Stokley with 6:43 left in the game.
The Patriots then lost the ball on Ridley’s fumble and Manning completed a 28-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas to the Patriots 14-yard line. But two plays later, Willis McGahee fumbled and Jermaine Cunningham recovered.
“We can build on that” ability to whittle a big deficit, Manning said. “I do think that will help us win a game at some point.”
The Patriots set a franchise record with 35 first downs and gained 440 yards one week after gaining 580 yards against the Bills. The Broncos sputtered after beating the Oakland Raiders 37-6. Their previous two losses were by just six points to the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans.
“I know they’ve been great teams we’ve lost to, which still doesn’t make it any easier,” Manning said.
The Patriots went four-and-out on their first possession, then scored on their next three – covering 84 yards to Brady’s 8-yard pass to Wes Welker, 80 yards to Shane Vereen‘s 1-yard touchdown run and 93 yards to Stephen Gostkowski‘s 23-yard field goal for a 17-7 halftime lead.
They scored twice in 18 seconds in the third quarter on Brady’s 1-yard run and Ridley’s 8-yard dash after Manning was sacked and fumbled on the first play after the kickoff.
The Broncos never led, but did tie the game 7-7 on Manning’s 1-yard pass to Joel Dreessen.
Brady 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.
There were plenty of close games in subsequent regular-season matchups, with six of the previous seven decided by seven points or less.
Ridley had his third 100-yard rushing game of his career, all this season. Welker, the NFL’s leading receiver last year with 122 catches, had 13 for 104 yards.
“There were a few times where I didn’t get open,” he said, “but for the most part I feel like I got open a lot and was able to make some plays.”
He had a pretty good quarterback throwing to him.
“Nobody I’d rather have than Tom Brady,” New England coach Bill Belichick said, “but Manning’s a great player.”
Notes: Denver rushed for just 70 yards, 51 by McGahee. … The Patriots rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1978. … Manning extended his NFL record to 66 games with at least 300 yards passing.
– By By HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports Writer
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