The Patriots weren’t about to allow another second-half miraculous comeback from Brock Osweiler this time.
Already down Chris Hogan, Marcus Cannon, Malcom Brown and Dont’a Hightower The stars of the 41-16 win over the Broncos in Denver Sunday night included the likes of Rex Burkhead, Dwayne Allen and Dion Lewis.
The win was the 270th of Bill Belichick’s career (including playoffs), tying him with Tom Landry for third-most in NFL history. Only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) have more.
“It’s flattering but I don’t think that’s the story tonight,” Belichick said in deflecting any praise of his 270th win. “It’s the players. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great players. The players are the ones that deserve the credit.”
Tom Brady was 25-of-34 for 266 yards and three touchdowns. The win was his 86th career on the road, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for most all-time. The Patriots, who won their fifth straight overall, also tied a franchise record with their 12th straight road win.
“It is fun for me. I plan on doing it for a long time,” Brady said after his fifth straight win.
The win was New England’s second in as many seasons in Denver after losing twice in 2015, including the 30-24 overtime win by the Broncos in the snow. For a full boxscore, click here.
“A really good effort by our team tonight, really all week. The entire team prepared really hard. Thought we really had a good week. Team played really good complementary football tonight, right off the bat,” Belichick said after the game.
Burkhead caught a touchdown pass and blocked a punt, Lewis ran a kickoff back 103 yards for a touchdown and scored on a touchdown run and Allen made a key block on Lewis’ TD return and caught his first pass of the season for a touchdown. Allen also made a key pin-down block on a Burkhead fourth-down run that extended a scoring drive. Stephon Gilmore returned from a three-game absence due to a concussion and played effectively all night.
The win following their bye week improves the Patriots to 7-2 and ties them with the Steelers at 7-2 in AFC. New England also has a 2-game lead on the 5-4 Bills. The 4-4 Dolphins play the Panthers Monday night. The Patriots will stay in Colorado and train this week at the Air Force Academy before leaving for Mexico City and next Sunday’s game against the Raiders.
The Patriots dressed four tight ends and used all of them. Newcomer Martellus Bennett made his Patriots return, catching three passes on three targets for 38 yards, including a 26-yarder on New England’s second scoring drive. Rob Gronkowski caught four passes for 74 yards while Jacob Hollister recovered a muff punt.
“He did a great job, to come in on a Friday. I love having Martellus on our team,” Brady said of having Martellus Bennett back on the roster this week. “I thought playing from ahead all night was important. We played really good complementary football. We know caliber of specialists we have.”
Brian Hoyer made his return to the Patriots, replacing Brady on the final drive of the night, completing all three of his pass attempts for 37 yards.
After going 3-and-out to start the game, the Patriots got a huge boost on their first punt of the game. In the same building that featured a muffed punt from Chris Harper that turned a potential 11-0 start to a tone-setting loss, Isaiah McKenzie muffed a punt at his 26-yard line. Jacob Hollister was there to jump on the ball.
(Dion Lewis on the run Sunday night – Getty Images)
After a run by Rex Burkhead, Brady dropped back and fired a pass over the middle to Burkhead, who caught it inside the 10 and raced into the
The Broncos had to settle for a 39-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
Instead of kicking it through the end zone, as he regularly does in altitude in Denver, kicker Brandon McManus appeared to intentionally kick to Lewis.
Lewis made McManus and the Broncos pay. The returner took the ensuing kick three yards deep in the end zone and ran straight ahead. He didn’t stop until he was 103 yards downfield in the Broncos end zone. The run featured a cut the left at his own 35-yard line.
He blew past kicker Brandon McManus and was pushed from behind by Devontae Booker at the Broncos 30 and tiptoed the left sideline for the biggest return of the season for the Patriots and a 14-3 lead.
Brock Osweiler led the Broncos down the field again but the Broncos again had to settle for a field goal, as McManus converted from 33 yards.
The Patriots drove down the field in 14 plays, going 68 yards. Former Boston College star safety Justin Simmons sacked Brady on third down to force a 25-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, putting the Patriots ahead 17-6.
The Patriots and Burkhead did it again on special teams minutes later when the running back – on the punt coverage team – broke through the line and blocked a Riley Dixon punt. The Patriots took over at the Broncos 30. Again, the Patriots could not punch the ball in, settling for Gostkowski’s second field goal and a 20-6 lead.
The Broncos marched down the field but couldn’t punch it in and settled for McManus’ third field goal of the night.
Then, in classic Patriots fashion, Brady led the Patriots down the field just before halftime and converted for second time in four red zone chances. Dwayne Allen, who had been targeted early in the game without success, finally got into the catch column. His eighth target of the season from Brady came on a pass in coverage by Von Miller. Allen beat Miller, caught the ball and landed in the end zone for a touchdown that put the Patriots up, 27-9, at the half.
The Broncos showed some life in the second half, taking the opening drive of the half down the field, capped off by a 7-yard TD pass from Osweiler to Demaryius Thomas. The key to the drive was a fluke Thomas catch off a deflection as Osweiler was getting hit on third-and-10 that kept the drive alive early on.
But the Patriots responded immediately. Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 26 yards and Brandin Cooks for 25 yards on consecutive plays. Dion Lewis finished off the drive with runs of six, six and eight yards, the last one coming as the Broncos were scrambling and caught with only 10 players on the field.
There was another injury setback for the Patriots as Matthew Slater suffered a hamstring injury and was ruled out in the second half.