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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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The comeback hopes for the Broncos ended when Willis McGahee - tackled here by Brandon Spikes in the first quarter - fumbled late. (AP)

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.

“That probably changed the game for us when I fumbled that ball,” McGahee said. “[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.

“At the end of the day, [the fumble] changed the game, like I said,” McGahee said. “We were trying to score. It happens; I’ll put it on my shoulders. I think I can handle it.”

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