Brady tops Manning, Patriots beat Broncos 31-21

Associated Press Modified: October 8, 2012 at 5:02 am •  Published: October 8, 2012
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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.

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