Brady tops Manning, Patriots beat Broncos 31-21

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots hurried to beat the

Denver Broncos.

Brady led four scoring drives of at least 80 yards while using a

no-huddle offense for most of the first three quarters and won his

marquee matchup with Peyton Manning, 31-21 on Sunday.

The pregame hype surrounded the meeting of star quarterbacks,

but for Brady it was a team victory.

”It’s Patriots-Broncos,” he said. ”It was a great team win.

We got some turnovers from our defense and I thought offensively

capitalized at times.”

The up-tempo attack helped.

”We’re just trying to put a lot of pressure on those guys to

get their calls in and line up and play against us,” Brady said.

”We can go pretty fast at home if we can communicate really

well.”

Even Manning, no slouch at operating without a huddle, was

impressed.

”They certainly did a good job of staying on the field,” he

said.

The Patriots had a more than 11-minute lead in time of

possession, 35:49 to 24:11, even though Denver had studied their

fast pace. The Broncos still had trouble making substitutions to

fit the plays they thought the Patriots would run.

”It caught us off guard,” linebacker Joe Mays said. ”We knew

they were fast and that they were going to get to the line of

scrimmage and snap the ball, but it’s different seeing them on film

and playing against them.”

The Patriots (3-2) ran 54 times for 251 yards, led by Stevan

Ridley’s career-high 151, and Brady threw 31 passes, completing 23

for 223 yards and a touchdown. The defense sacked Manning twice and

recovered three fumbles. One led to a touchdown and the other ended

a drive at the New England 11-yard line with 3:42 left after Denver

had rallied from a 31-7 deficit in the third quarter.

”Any time you turn the ball over, it hurts you,” Broncos coach

John Fox said. ”You go on the road … against a very good

football team and, particularly offensively in their tempo and

their skill set, makes for tough slugging.”

Brady is 9-4 against Manning, who left the Indianapolis Colts

after missing all of last season following neck surgery.

Manning was 31 of 44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns but lost

a fumble on a third-quarter sack.

”This is not a team you want to fall behind to,” he said after

failing to pull off his 37th fourth-quarter comeback.

The Broncos (2-3) cut into a 31-7 deficit with about five

minutes left in the third quarter on Manning’s scoring passes of 2

yards to Eric Decker and 5 yards to Brandon Stokley with 6:43 left

in the game.

The Patriots then lost the ball on Ridley’s fumble and Manning

completed a 28-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas to the Patriots

14-yard line. But two plays later, Willis McGahee fumbled and

Jermaine Cunningham recovered.

”We can build on that” ability to whittle a big deficit,

Manning said. ”I do think that will help us win a game at some

point.”

The Patriots set a franchise record with 35 first downs and

gained 440 yards one week after gaining 580 yards against the

Bills. The Broncos sputtered after beating the Oakland Raiders

37-6. Their previous two losses were by just six points to the

Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans.

”I know they’ve been great teams we’ve lost to, which still

doesn’t make it any easier,” Manning said.

The Patriots went four-and-out on their first possession, then

scored on their next three – covering 84 yards to Brady’s 8-yard

pass to Wes Welker, 80 yards to Shane Vereen’s 1-yard touchdown run

and 93 yards to Stephen Gostkowski’s 23-yard field goal for a 17-7

halftime lead.

They scored twice in 18 seconds in the third quarter on Brady’s

1-yard run and Ridley’s 8-yard dash after Manning was sacked and

fumbled on the first play after the kickoff.

The Broncos never led, but did tie the game 7-7 on Manning’s

1-yard pass to Joel Dreessen.

Brady and Manning first faced each other in the third game of

the 2001 season. The Patriots won 44-13 in Brady’s first career

start.

There were plenty of close games in subsequent regular-season

matchups, with six of the previous seven decided by seven points or

less.

Ridley had his third 100-yard rushing game of his career, all

this season. Welker, the NFL’s leading receiver last year with 122

catches, had 13 for 104 yards.

”There were a few times where I didn’t get open,” he said,

”but for the most part I feel like I got open a lot and was able

to make some plays.”

He had a pretty good quarterback throwing to him.

”Nobody I’d rather have than Tom Brady,” New England coach

Bill Belichick said, ”but Manning’s a great player.”

Notes: Denver rushed for just 70 yards, 51 by McGahee. … The

Patriots rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games for

the first time since 1978. … Manning extended his NFL record to

66 games with at least 300 yards passing.

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and

http://twitter.com/AP-NFL