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Willis McGahee: Comeback hopes ‘changed the game for us when I fumbled’

10.07.12 at 10:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — It had all the makings of another Tom Brady/Peyton Manning classic down-to-the-wire finish, but any Broncos comeback was cut short on Sunday when Denver running back Willis McGahee turned the ball over in the Patriots’ red zone.

Late in the fourth quarter, McGahee carried to the 11-yard line, but was stripped by defensive end Rob Ninkovich. Jermaine Cunningham recovered, and several plays later the remaining seconds ticked away.

McGahee said after the game that he had two key plays on offense that could have changed the outcome of the game, most notably the fumble on the Broncos’ last offensive series.

‘€œThat probably changed the game for us when I fumbled that ball,’€ McGahee said. ‘€œ[Ninkovich] made a good play. I had it high and tight, but he made a good play. Still, I’€™ve got to be better than that. I think that’€™s what changed the game for us. I’€™ll take all the credit for that, just changing the game.’€

The Patriots had a 31-21 lead while the Broncos were on the threshold of the end zone, but a quick touchdown would have cut the lead to three with roughly 3:30 left to play — potentially enough time for Manning to lead a late scoring drive, even just into field goal position.

The Broncos fell to 2-3 on the season, while the Chargers (who lead the West division) are currently underway with the winless Saints. With the loss, the Broncos will have to play catch-up in the division, and McGahee will carry the burden of Sunday’€™s defeat.

‘€œAt the end of the day, [the fumble] changed the game, like I said,’€ McGahee said. ‘€œWe were trying to score. It happens; I’€™ll put it on my shoulders. I think I can handle it.’€

Read More: Broncos, Patriots, Willis McGahee,

Rob Ninkovich: ‘I knew I was capable of making some big plays’

10.07.12 at 10:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — A Patriots defensive end stole the show Sunday — and his name was not Chandler Jones.

Rob Ninkovich forced a pair of huge second-half turnovers that proved critical in New England’s 31-21 win over the Broncos.

Without Ninkovich’s key plays, fourth-and-5 could have replaced fourth-and-2 in Patriots infamy.

With the Patriots up, 24-7, midway through the third quarter, Ninkovich crashed through and stripped Peyton Manning of the ball. Vince Wilfork recovered at the Broncos 6. On the next play, Stevan Ridley went around left tackle for a touchdown that put the Patriots up, seemingly comfortably, 31-7.

‘€œI was trying to set up my moves a little bit early,” Ninkovich said. “I know those guys out there are good and they’€™re big and you have to give it to Manning, he’€™s got great pocket presence. So the first couple drives I was trying to just bull rush, trying to collapse the pocket a little bit. Then on that one rush I just changed it up and swiped and got on the field and the ball was there so we just got it out.’€

Those would be the last points the Patriots would score on the day.

The Patriots went for it on fourth-and-5 at the Broncos 37 and instead of punting, Brady was sacked, fumbled and the Broncos marched down the field for a TD that made it 31-21 with 6:43 left. Then Ridley fumbled for the first time since the AFC divisional game.

But with 3:48 left and the Broncos on the verge of taking advantage of the turnover, Ninkovich stripped the ball out of McGahee’s arms as he was falling backwards at the Patriots 11. Jermaine Cunningham recovered. Game over.

‘€œI knew I was capable of making some big plays and being a guy that you can count on so the first couple of weeks I didn’€™t feel I was playing my style and the way I would like to play, so I felt the last couple weeks I’€™m doing some things that I’€™ve been trying to change,” Ninkovich said. ‘€œThe fumble at the end of the game on the draw play I just saw the running back step inside so I just followed him and saw the ball on his right hand and tried to throw a hook at it.”

While McGahee felt terrible, the Broncos were doing a favor to the Patriots by having the ball in the hands of someone other than Peyton Manning as they tried to complete a miracle comeback. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl, Peyton Manning’s Chris Price delivers the Quick Hits of Patriots’ win over the Broncos

10.07.12 at 9:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO —’s Chris Price offers three quick takeaways from the Patriots 31-21 win over the Broncos Sunday at Gillette Stadium:


Read More: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, nfl, Quick Hits

Snap Judgments: Patriots hold on to beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos

10.07.12 at 7:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The anticipated duel between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning never materialized Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, as the New England defense held Manning in check through the early going while the Patriots offense built 31-7 lead and held on in the second half for the 31-21 win. Here are a few notes:


‘€¢ When it comes to slowing Manning, the game plan Sunday was the same as it was in 2003: keep him off the field. The Patriots executed that part of the game plan to perfection, as for the second consecutive week, the Patriots were able to run the ball consistently, grinding out the clock and controlling the tempo throughout the contest.

As a result, Manning spent large parts of the game cooling his heels on the sidelines as New England put together multiple scoring drives of 10-plus plays on the afternoon. (Between the 5-minute mark of the second quarter and the 5-minute mark of the third quarter, the Broncos ran six plays.) On the day, New England was 11 of 17 when it came to third-down conversions, and set a new franchise record with 35 first downs in the game.

‘€¢ The Patriots got another impressive performance from their running game, as Stevan Ridley finished with 151 yards on the ground. (Sunday marked the first time since 1978 that the Patriots have had back to back 200-yard rushing games — they had 247 last week against the Bills.) Meanwhile, fellow backs Brandon Bolden (14 carries, 54 yards) and Danny Woodhead (7 carries, 47 yards) performed nicely in complementary roles.

‘€¢ Again, with no Aaron Hernandez in the lineup, Brady and Wes Welker were in terrific sync throughout the afternoon. Welker — who was matched up on defensive back Chris Harris for much of the game — had nine catches in the first half alone, and ended up with 13 catches for 104 yards on the afternoon. The Patriots also got excellent performances in the passing game from Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 35 yards) and Brandon Lloyd (3 catches, 34 yards). On the afternoon, Brady ended up 23 of 31 for 223 yards and one touchdown.

‘€¢ Defensive star of the game? Let’s go with defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who has 10 tackles, three forced fumbles (two against the Broncos) and a pair of sacks (one Sunday against Denver) in his last two games. He talked after the win against Buffalo about stepping up and improving his game — he’s certainly done that the last two weeks.


‘€¢ Even though it was fairly obvious for much of the afternoon the Broncos were all about passing the ball, there were a handful of occasions where the New England defensive backs struggled to contain Manning and the Denver receivers. Manning ended the day 31 of 44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns, with the bulk of the passes going to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (9 catches, 188 yards).

‘€¢ One guy who did struggle at times in coverage was cornerback Devin McCourty, who yielded a touchdown pass on a nifty catch by Eric Decker in the third quarter, was flagged for a pass interference call that set up Denver’s first touchdown of the game at the start of the second quarter and allowed a big fourth-quarter pass play to Thomas that got the Broncos into the New England red zone.

‘€¢ At various times, the Patriots lost the services of several difference players, including McCourty, linebacker Tracy White and offensive linemen Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer. None of the injuries appeared to be serious, but White and Mankins were among those who were unable to finish the game.

Key Moments: Rob Ninkovich forces pair of fumbles

10.07.12 at 7:30 pm ET
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For the Patriots, the key moment in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Broncos came with five minutes left in the third quarter. Following a 16-play, 80-yard drive that gave New England a 24-7 lead — a drive that was kept alive by an unlikely 19-yard rush by Danny Woodhead on a 3rd-and-17 at the New England 43-yard line — the Broncos began a drive at their own 20-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, Peyton Manning was sacked by Rob Ninkovich, who beat tackle Orlando Franklin on the edge to get a hit on the quarterback, causing a fumble. (Chandler Jones also hit Manning on the play, beating Ryan Clady). Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble for the Patriots at the Denver 14-yard line.

The Patriots cashed in on the turnover quickly, as Shane Vereen drew an 11-yard pass interference call on Joe Mays on the first play of the drive. After a false start penalty from Nate Solder pushed the Patriots back five yards, Stevan Ridley rushed for an eight-yard TD (with solid blocking on the left side from Solder and Daniel Fells) to give the Patriots a 31-7 lead.

The Broncos rallied, however, and cut the lead to 31-21 and were at the New England 14-yard line late in the fourth quarter. That’s when Ninkovich made another impact play, stripping Willis McGahee (who had a crucial fourth-down drop earlier) of the ball on a second-down rush. Jermaine Cunningham recovered for the Patriots, who were able to convert a pair of third-down plays to run out the clock and move to 3-2 on the season.

Patriots vs. Broncos Live Blog — the return of that Peyton fellow

10.07.12 at 2:00 pm ET
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With the Broncos visiting New England on Sunday, Peyton Manning is making his much-anticipated return to Gillette Stadium. is on the scene with all the latest news, updates and analysis in the live blog below. Join us!

Patriots vs. Broncos Live Blog

Setting the scene: Patriots-Broncos

10.07.12 at 1:10 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Steady rain and temperatures in the mid-50s are expected for the late afternoon kickoff between the Patriots and Broncos at Gillette Stadium.

It figures to a be a raw afternoon at Gillette but wind should not play a major factor with only a light 5 mph breeze out of the west expected.

The Patriots enter the game with 12 players listed as questionable, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is battling a hip issue that reportedly has become more and more serious in the last two weeks. If Gronkowski can’t play, the Patriots could be extremely thin at tight end as Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday and Friday and Aaron Hernandez (right ankle) has missed the last two games before returning to practice on Thursday.

Receiver Julian Edelman (left hand) and safety Steve Gregory (hip) have already been ruled out.

The Patriots are playing their first 4:25 game of the year, 10 minutes later than last year to allow networks additional time for early games to finish before switching to a national game. Next week, the Patriots play at 4:05 p.m. ET in Seattle but the game is not a national game.

The Patriots are playing just their second home game in the first five weeks of the season after back-to-back road games in Baltimore and Buffalo. The Patriots have just three home games in the first two months of the season.

Of course, the main storyline today is Peyton Manning returning to New England for a matchup with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Brady holds a 8-4 advantage over Manning, including 6-3 in the regular season.

Manning is 2-8 lifetime in New England, with his only wins coming in back-to-back seasons in 2005 and ’06.

Belichick is 9-5 against Manning, having split with him in 2000, the only year in the Belichick era the Patriots played Manning without Brady at the helm. The 9-5 mark does not include last year when the Patriots beat the Colts, 31-24, at Gillette, when Manning was on the sidelines for the Colts and missed the entire 2011 season.

In the Brady-Manning era, Manning has 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and a completion rate of 60.7 percent against the Belichick-coached Patriots. Brady has 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and a completion rate of 67.8 percent against the Manning-led Colts.

As is the case around the NFL, the Patriots and Broncos will be wearing various pieces of pink equipment and uniform apparel to commemorate breast cancer awareness month. (Note the second “A” in the GAMEDAY program in the inset photo).

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Denver Broncos, Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots
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