|Date of game: 11/2/2014
Recap: New England vs. Denver
Foxboro, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - On the scoreboard as well as the stat sheet, Tom Brady got the best of Peyton Manning once again.
With Brady tossing four touchdown passes and his New England teammates coming up with two pivotal interceptions of Manning, the Patriots continued their midseason roll with a 43-21 blowout of the Denver Broncos in matchup of AFC powerhouses.
This highly anticipated showdown between last season's conference title game participants turned out to be not much of a contest at all, thanks to Brady's precision passing and a number of miscues from the reigning AFC champion Broncos.
In addition to Manning's two picks that were both converted into New England touchdowns, Denver (6-2) committed 10 penalties, gave up an 84-yard punt return to Julian Edelman and was stopped four times on fourth down to have a four-game win streak come to an end.
"Well, I don't usually stink, but I stunk today," Manning said.
Those errors were most costly during a second quarter in which the Patriots put up 24 unanswered points to build a commanding 27-7 halftime lead.
Brady, now 11-5 all-time in head-to-head meetings with Manning, did his part by completing 33-of-53 attempts for 333 yards with one interception. Rob Gronkowski caught nine passes for 105 yards and one of Brady's scoring strikes, with Edelman adding nine receptions totaling 89 yards with a touchdown along with his huge punt return.
"He has always set a real high bar for how to play and I have tried to do the same through my efforts with my team," Brady said of Manning.
New England (7-2) has averaged 40.2 points in ripping off five straight victories since a 41-14 loss at Kansas City in Week 4.
Manning did put up 438 passing yards and two touchdowns on a 34-of-57 completion rate, but endured a mostly frustrating afternoon as the Patriots dominated the final three quarters.
Emmanuel Sanders finished with 151 yards on 10 catches and Ronnie Hillman scored a pair of touchdowns for Denver. Demaryius Thomas compiled 127 yards on seven grabs in the loss.
Denver owned a 7-6 edge early in the second quarter before a litany of mistakes snowballed into 21 consecutive New England points prior to the conclusion of the period.
The first was committed by Manning, who failed to see Rob Ninkovich dropping into coverage and had his pass picked off by the linebacker and returned 11 yards to the Broncos' 34.
Consecutive catches by Edelman and Gronkowski then preceded Brady's 5-yard dart that Edelman hauled in with a diving grab in the end zone to put New England ahead with 11:41 left in the first half.
Denver's next drive stalled and resulted in a punt that Edelman corralled at his own 16-yard line, broke free down the right sideline and cut across the field to the left around the Broncos' 30 to avoid his remaining pursuers and give the Patriots a sudden 20-7 advantage.
Manning responded with three completions to Sanders, the last gaining 25 yards to the New England 23, but misfired on his next three throws and Brandon McManus' 41-yard field goal try clanged off the right upright and was no good.
The Broncos got down to the Patriots' 34 on their subsequent possession, which ended in Akeem Ayers sacking Manning for a 9-yard loss on fourth down just before the two-minute warning.
Brady capitalized on the good field position, hitting a wide-open Edelman for 26 yards and Shane Vereen on a screen for 18 to bring New England to the 5- yard line with under a minute to go in the half. Three plays later, he avoided a rush and fired over the middle to Vereen in the end zone with just eight seconds on the clock, putting Denver in a 27-7 hole at intermission.
Brady was intercepted by Bradley Roby near midfield on the first Patriots drive of the second half, with Manning taking advantage this time. He found Thomas for 27 yards before perfectly dropping in an 18-yard touchdown pass to Julius Thomas that gave the Broncos a needed spark.
The momentum was short-lived, however. Brady got New England in range for Stephen Gostkowski to knock through a 45-yard field goal on the ensuing series, and Manning's next attempt bounced off the chest of ex-Patriot Wes Welker and was picked off by Brandon Browner.
On the very next snap after Browner's 30-yard runback, Brandon LaFell beat Roby on a slant route and snared Brady's 10-yard delivery to stake New England to a 37-14 advantage midway through the third quarter.
Denver needed just four plays to answer, with Hillman capping a 72-yard trek with a 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown that brought the Broncos back within two scores.
The Broncos' defense couldn't come up with the necessary stop, however, as New England converted three times on third down while embarking on a back-breaking 14-play, 80-yard drive that consumed nearly seven minutes.
Gronkowski had a would-be 21-yard touchdown overturned when replays showed he was stopped just short of the goal line, but caught Brady's next pass on the second snap of the fourth quarter to increase the lead to 43-21.
Denver's next three series all ended in fourth-down failures, the first coming on the Patriots' 8-yard line when Jacob Tamme couldn't come down with a one- handed catch in the end zone.
Neither of the two legendary quarterbacks got off to a particularly strong start, as both teams failed to generate a first down on their initial two drives. New England still managed to get on the board via a 49-yard Gostkowski field goal that was set up by a short Denver punt and a catch interference penalty.
The Broncos then got untracked on their next possession, with Manning completing his first five passes on a 9-play, 80-yard sequence that ended in Hillman's 1-yard touchdown run with 3:54 left in the opening quarter.
Brady countered by making good on five of his first six throws -- three of which went to Gronkowski -- in directing a 12-play jaunt that culminated in Gostkowski's 29-yard field goal less than a minute into the second quarter.Game Notes
The game marked the first time in NFL history between starting quarterbacks
with over 150 regular-season wins ... Manning has now lost in eight of his 10
career visits to New England ... The Patriots extended their regular-season
home win streak to 14 straight games, which includes a 34-31 come-from-behind
overtime triumph over the Broncos last November ... Manning set a new NFL
record with his 14th straight regular-season game with at least two touchdown
passes ... Edelman's punt return touchdown was the fourth of his career,
breaking a Patriots franchise record he had shared with Troy Brown and Irving
Fryar ... Welker had just three catches for 31 yards before exiting with a
back injury sustained on Manning's second interception ... Brady's 300-yard
effort was the 62nd of his career, tying Brett Favre for the fourth-most in