Patriots run all over Broncos in win
The New England Patriots ground attack shredded through the Broncos defense as Stevan Ridley rumbled to a career best of 151 rush yards. Danny Woodhead came up with the biggest run of the game when he rushed for 19 yards on a 3rd and 17 play during a key third quarter drive. Quarterback Tom Brady led the drive from there and eventually took it into the end zone himself on a one-yard touchdown run.
Running back Brandon Bolden added 54 rush yards of his own to the Patriots 251 total yards on the ground. Shane Vereen contributed with a one-yard touchdown run to cap off an 80-yard second quarter drive, while Woodhead also posted 47 yards rush yards on only 7 carries.
The Broncos found no answer to the Patriots high-powered rushing attack as New England defeated Denver 31-21 Sunday evening in Foxboro. Brady is now 9-4 against quarterback Peyton Manning, defeating him for the first time in a Denver uniform.
Brady and the offense marched methodically down the field in the first half against a helpless Bronco defense. After a punt to start the game, the Patriots went on three straight 80-plus-yard scoring drives. Manning came back with a touchdown down drive of his own, making the score 7-7 at the beginning of the second quarter.
The Patriots answered.
Brady took over with the ball on his own 20-yard-line and faced a third and ten. He quickly hit Wes Welker with a pass for a first down. Woohead kept the drive going with a first down run of his own. The Patriots entered the hurry up offense, and the Denver defense quickly folded. Ridley ran the ball for a first down, which was quickly followed up by a 15-yard strike to receiver Brandon Lloyd and a 12-yard catch by Rob Gronkowski. Two more quick first downs setup the Patriots on the one-yard-line. Vereen capped the six-minute, 80 yard drive off with a one-yard touchdown run, putting the Patriots ahead for good.
New England finished the second quarter off with a 93-yard drive and a Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
The Patriots continued to pound away at the Broncos defense with a near replica six-minute, 80-yard touchdown drive early in the third quarter. Ridley reached 100 yards as Brady and the offense maneuvered their way down the field once more.
Manning would not go quietly, however, as he willed the Broncos back into the game despite being down 31-7 late in the third quarter. He exploited the Patriots weakness in Devin McCourty at cornerback, finding receiver Demaryius Thomas for 9 catches and 188 yards. Manning cut through the Patriots defense and brought the Broncos within striking distance after a touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley with eight minutes left to play. A hush fell over Gillette Stadium as the Patriots found themselves only up by ten.
The Patriots lead was too much for Manning and the Broncos to overcome late in the fourth quarter. Rob Ninkovich came up with his second forced fumble of the game when he stripped Willis McGahee on the Patriots own 10-yard-line. Jermaine Cunningham recovered the ball and Bolden ran for one more first down before the Patriots knelt the ball to run out the clock.
New England finished the game with a team record of 35 first downs, 18 of which came on the ground. It only makes sense that the Patriots offense held the ball for nearly 36 minutes compared to the Broncos 24 minutes.
Welker too set a record of his own with nine catches in the first half alone. He finished with 13 grabs for 103 yards and a touchdown. After a slow start to the season and many questions about his role in the Patriots offense, Welker now has 469 receiving yards in just the last four games and is New England’s leading receiver.
Manning led his team through the air with 345 passing yards and three touchdowns. He brought the Broncos back and gave them a chance late in the fourth. McGahee ran for 51 yards but never truly got going on the ground. In the end, Brady had something Manning didn’t.
In a game where Brady and Manning excelled at the quarterback position as they usually do, the Patriots run game answered the call. On the day the Brady-Manning rivalry was renewed once more, the Patriots running backs led the charge. Ridley, Bolden, and Woodhead scorched the Broncos defense as Manning could only watch on the sidelines.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has the New England offense operating at a highly efficient level. More importantly, he may have given quarterback Tom Brady a key weapon in a lethal run game.