New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Daniel Fells (86) and wide receiver Wes Welker (83) in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Foxborough, Mass.

The Denver Broncos came to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA on Sunday afternoon to face a familiar opponent and they brought an old foe, Peyton Manning.  Fortunately for the New England Patriots as has happened more times than not Manning’s team, this time the Broncos, folded in the late game pressure and the Patriots won 31-21.

Denver started out with a good opening drive only to see Demaryius Thomas get the ball punched from his hands on the way to the end zone by New England CB Sterling Moore.  Moore in a heads up play caused the fumble and recovered the ball thwarting an opening scoring drive.

New England got on the board first in the opening quarter when QB Tom Brady threw an 8-yard TD pass to WR Wes Welker who had to do a pirouette to catch the ball after a massive in cut fake on Broncos CB Chris Harris.

After the teams traded TDs in the second quarter a pass from Manning to TE David Dreissen for Denver and a 1 yard run by RB Shane Vereen, Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski added a 23-yard field goal and New England took a 17-7 lead to locker rooms and was getting the ball to start the second half.

The third quarter saw New England expand their lead to 24 points when they added TD runs of 1 yard on QB sneak by Brady and an 8 yard Stevan Ridley run with a final dive at the end to get into the endzone and give the Patriots a 31-7 lead with 4:42 left in the 3rd quarter.

Denver wasn’t done though as they refused to die just as they have all season.  While the Broncos sit now at 1-3 they easily could be as good as 3-1 if any of these late game comebacks had yielded more positive results.

The old pro Manning lead the team down field on a very quick drive to cut the lead to 17 with just over a minute left in the quarter with a 2 yard TD pass to Eric Decker.  In the fourth he added another score with a 5-yard throw to former Indianapolis teammate Brandon Stokley and all of a sudden it was on.

It was around this Brady ran an audible and one of the clearly heard signals was “whiskey” and boy Patriots fans were thinking the same thing as half of New England went running to find Jack, Jimmy, Evan or James.

Shortly afterward Ridley coughed up the ball and here was Denver again driving into Patriots territory and freaking out Patriots fans everywhere.  But low and behold DE Rob Ninkovich came up with his second forced fumble of the game punching the ball loose from RB Willis McGahee and DL Jermaine Cunningham pounced on the ball.

After that a few runs by rookie RB Brandon Bolden that got a first down put the game away in favor of the Patriots.

Broncos at Patriots Gamebook. This includes the box score, all the stats, play by play, drive charts and more.

Broncos at Patriots Game Recap.

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Turning Point(s) of the Game

Patriots DE Rob Ninkovich punched the ball free from Broncos RB Willis McGahee late in the fourth quarter and it was recovered by DL Jermaine Cunningham to keep the Patriots lead at ten points.

Offensive Player(s) of the Game

New England RB Stevan Ridley had 151 yards on 28 carries and he scored 1 TD.  He also had a lost fumble.

Defensive Player(s) of the Game

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, right, watches his fumble after being sacked by New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich (50) in the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Foxborough, Mass.DE Rob Ninkovich had 4 tackles (2 solo); 1 sack for minus 6 yards; 1 QB hit and 2 forced fumbles including the one the iced the game.

Game Notes

Starters for the Patriots were:

On Offense:

LT Solder

LG Mankins

C Wendell

RG Connolly

RT Vollmer

TE Gronkowski

WR Welker

WR Branch

WR Lloyd

QB Brady

RB Woodhead

On Defense:

DE Ninkovich

DT Wilfork

DT Love

DE Jones

LB Mayo

LB Spikes

LB White

CB McCourty
CB Arrington
S Wilson
S Chung

Inactives for the Game:


1. WR Julian Edelman (hand)

2. S Steve Gregory (hip)

3. TE Mike Hoomanawanui

4. LB Dont’a Hightower

5. DE Jake Bequette

6. TE Aaron Hernandez

7. OL Matt Tennant


1. QB Caleb Hanie

2. RB Knowshon Moreno

3. S Duke Ihenacho

4. LB Steven Johnson

5. OL C.J. Davis

6. TE Julius Thomas

7. NT Sealver Siliga

The spread (Patriots MINUS 7 1/2) WAS covered.  The over/under (52) WAS NOT COVERED.  I TOOK the points (BRONCOS) and took the OVER.  I am now 2-3 vs. the spread and 3 of 5 calling the under/over.

This was the 197th consecutive home sellout for New England dating back to Week 1 in 1994.  The streak includes preseason, regular season and post season games.

The Patriots are 68-14 at home in the regular season since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002.

Since 1999 the Patriots have the best record in the NFL at 150-63.

Since 2003 New England is 33-6 in October games.

The Patriots are 3-2 vs. Denver at Gillette Stadium.

New England has won 4 of the last 5 meetings including 1 playoff game.

Bill Belichick’s 195 wins are good for 8th all-time.  He is now 195-106 including playoffs in his career.

Tom Brady is 4-6 vs. the Broncos including 1-1 in the playoffs.  Overall including playoffs he is 143-43.

Brady has 308 TD passes in his career he is now 5th all-time.  Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton is 4th with 342.

Brady has 127 regular season career wins he is 5th all-time.  Peyton Manning is 4th with 141.

Brady has thrown at least 1 TD pass in 37 consecutive games.

WR Wes Welker now has catches in 106 consecutive games including playoffs, 89 as a Patriot.  The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.

The Patriots sacked Denver QB Peyton Manning 2 times, while allowing Brady to be sacked 4 times.

New England’s turnover differential is PLUS 10. The defense has recovered 8 fumble and has 6 INT.  The offense has given away 3 fumbles and has 1 INT.

The Patriots were 4 for 5 in the red zone.  They had 4 TDs and 1 FG.

New England was 11 for 17 (65%) on third down conversions and 0 for 1 (0%) on 4th down attempts.

The Broncos are 2-3 in Gillette Stadium.  Their last win in Foxboro came in 2006.

John Fox is 83-82 in his 11th season as a head coach; he is 10-11 with Denver and 73-71 in 9 seasons with Carolina.  In the playoffs he is 6-4 overall (5-3 with Carolina; 1-1 with Denver) for an overall record of 89-86.

Fox is 1-5 vs. New England including 1 Super Bowl (0-1).  He is 0-3 with Denver and 1-2 with Carolina.

Peyton Manning has a career record of 143-70 in 15 seasons.  He was 141-67 with Indianapolis and is 2-3 with Denver.  He is 9-10 in the post season for an overall record of 152-80.

Manning is 7-13 against the Patriots, including playoffs (1-2).  He is 2-9 vs. the Patriots on the road.

The Broncos were 7 for 13 (54%) on 3rd down conversions and 1 for 2 (50%) on 4th down attempts.

Buffalo was 3 for 4 (75%) in the red zone.  They had 3 TDs and lost 1 fumble.

Denver is MINUS 6 in turnover differential. The offense has given up 3 INTs and 7 fumbles, while the defense has 2 INTs and 2 fumble recoveries.

Gene Steratore was the game referee.  The temp at kickoff was 54 with showers.

Attendance – 68,756 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro MA

Post Game Interviews

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Patriots QB Tom Brady post game press conference transcript via

This Week in the AFC East

Miami edged Cincinnati, 17-13

Buffalo got mauled by San Francisco, 45-3

NY Jets host Houston on Monday Night Football

AFC East Standings

Patriots                   3-2/1-0

Jets                        2-2/2-0

Bills                        2-3/0-2

Dolphins                  2-3/0-1

Next Week

The Patriots travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.  Kickoff is at 4 p.m. on CBS.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMichaelsII

photo credit: ap photo, ap photo