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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.

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