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Fumbles doom Broncos in 31-21 loss to Patriots

Associated Press Published: October 7, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Denver Broncos' opening drive ended when Demaryius Thomas fumbled away a 43-yard reception at the New England 10-yard line.

Their last one stopped when Willis McGahee coughed it up at the Patriots' 11.

"You've got to do better than that," said McGahee, who also dropped a pass on fourth and 1 in the fourth quarter. "I think that changed the game, and I take full credit for that."

Peyton Manning threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns Sunday, but he was also strip-sacked in the third quarter as the Patriots forced three fumbles to open a 24-point lead and win 31-21. Thomas caught nine passes for 188 yards, and McGahee had 51 yards rushing and 51 more receiving, but each also had a key turnover deep in New England territory.

"Any time you turn the ball over, it hurts you," Broncos coach John Fox said. "You go on the road tonight, against a very good football team and particularly offensively in their tempo and their skill set, makes for tough slugging. I mean, our guys hung in there and fought back, but at the end of the day, it is still minus-two (in turnover differential). That usually relates in a point differential."

In the 13th meeting between the star quarterbacks — and first since Manning joined the Broncos — Brady directed four scoring drives of at least 80 yards. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown and ran for another while opening a 31-7 lead in the third quarter.

"This is not a team you want to fall behind to," said Manning, who was 31 of 44 while falling to 4-9 in his career against the Patriots. "We had a couple of chances in the first half to score some points. ... You have to be able to convert opportunities when they present themselves."

Manning's fumble led to Stevan Ridley's 8-yard run that put the Patriots (3-2) ahead 31-7 with about five minutes left in the third quarter. Ridley led the Patriots with a career-high 151 yards rushing.

Manning then threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Eric Decker and 5 yards to Brandon Stokley but Denver (2-3) lost the ball on McGahee's fumble with 3:42 remaining.

The Patriots set a franchise record with 35 first downs as they kept their offense rolling one week after gaining 580 yards, 247 on the ground, in a 52-28 rout of the Buffalo Bills. The Broncos sputtered after beating the Oakland Raiders 37-6.

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