Tom Brady went 25-of-34 for 266 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions as New England improved to 7-2 and tightened its grip on the AFC East. According to NBC’s broadcast, Brady recorded his 86th road victory as a starting quarterback, which surpassed Peyton Manning‘s total for the most in NFL history.
This year’s Broncos didn’t look anything like Manning’s Super Bowl-champion version as they dropped their fifth straight contest and fell further out of the AFC playoff race at 3-6.
The game went off the rails for the slumping Broncos on special teams right out of the gate.
Isaiah McKenzie muffed a punt after Denver’s defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession, and New England recovered and parlayed it into a Rex Burkhead touchdown reception.
Burkhead got involved in the special teams onslaught as well by blocking a punt, which led to Stephen Gostkowski’s second of two field goals. According to The Ringer, Burkhead became the first player since 1977 to block a punt and catch a score in the same contest. He had 27 receiving yards and 36 rushing yards.
Dion Lewis tallied a 103-yard touchdown return on a kickoff in between Burkhead’s touchdown and blocked punt, continuing the theme of special teams domination.
Troy Renck of Denver7 noted those particular struggles were nothing new for the Broncos:
New England seized a 27-9 halftime advantage after Dwayne Allen’s touchdown reception, and the only reason it was even that close was wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders consistently torching New England cornerback Malcolm Butler. Sanders finished with six catches for 137 yards, and NFL Research noted he became just the 22nd active player to surpass 6,000 receiving yards in his career.
Sanders’ performance was a silver lining for the Broncos, who received 221 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception from quarterback Brock Osweiler, and 54 rushing yards from C.J. Anderson and zero scores on the ground in defeat.
It appeared as if Osweiler would make it a game when he found Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter for Denver’s only touchdown of the contest to pull within two scores, but the members of New England’s backfield outside Burkhead took matters into their own hands down the stretch.
A touchdown run from Lewis, who finished with a game-high 55 rushing yards, and a touchdown catch from James White put the contest on ice and sapped it of any late drama, as the Patriots shifted into cruise control for the majority of the second half.
The only nervous moments came when umpire Jeff Rice was carted off the field with what appeared to be a head injury. According to Lindsay Jones of USA Today, a Patriot accidently blindsided Rice while blocking following a punt.
However, Rice appeared to be OK in the aftermath:
On the field, the Broncos will look to turn things around with a home clash against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11, while Brady and the Patriots will put their winning streak on the line against the Oakland Raiders.
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