FOXBORO -- In a game of keepaway, Tom Brady led scoring drives of 12, 14, 16 and 16 plays while Wes Welker scorched the Broncos for 13 catches and 104 yards helping the Patriots turn back Peyton Manning and the Broncos, 31-21, Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Brady finished 23-of-31 for 223 yards, a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown. Manning finished 31-of-44 and 345 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots set a new franchise record with 35 first downs.
Stevan Ridley became the first Patriots running back to rush for over 100 yards in consecutive games since Laurence Maroney in 2007, carrying the ball 28 times for 151 yards. In winning their second straight, New England improved to 3-2 and gained sole possession of first place in the AFC East, pending Monday night's game between the Jets and Texans at MetLife Stadium.
Rob Ninkovich had a strip-sack that led to a Vince Wilfork recovery and forced a critical Willis McGahee fumble as the Broncos were deep in Patriots territory and down just 10 with four minutes left. McGahee, a drive earlier, dropped a certain first down on fourth-and-1 to help the Patriots survive a shaky fourth quarter that began with them leading 31-7.
With Manning coming out throwing on the first four plays of the game and moving the Broncos down the field, Sterling Moore - as he did in the AFC Championship - came up with a key play of the game. A wide open Demaryius Thomas caught a 43-yard pass from Manning over the middle and rambled down to the Patriots 10. But Moore came up from behind, caught Thomas and poked the ball free. Moore scrambled to his feet and recovered the ball at the Patriots 3 and returned it to the 16.
Brady was able to move it to the 31 before the Patriots were forced to punt. After a Broncos punt, the Patriots offense took control using the no-huddle offense. Brady orchestrated TD drives of 84 and 80 yards, totaling 12 and 14 plays respectively. Brady hit Wes Welker in the left flat for a 6-yard TD to get scoring underway in the first quarter.
Manning responded with a long drive of his own, using a 19-yard passing interference call on Devin McCourty in end zone to set up a 1-yard TD strike to Joel Dreesen. Brady came back and marched down the field. After a 9-yard completion to Brandon Lloyd inches shy of the goal line, Shane Vereen ran it in for his second career TD and a 14-7 Patriots lead.
The Patriots were pinned at their own 1-yard line when Brady led a 16-play drive that had New England first and goal at the Denver 9. But the drive stalled and the Patriots had to settle for a 23-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal that gave them a 17-7 halftime lead. Welker had nine catches on 10 targets in the first half for 71 yards. The nine catches are the most he's ever had in his career in the first half.
After going three-and-out for the first time to open the second half, Brady got the ball back and led the team on another 16-play drive, capped off when he dove over the middle from one yard for the TD. The Patriots scored 18 seconds later after Ninkovich strip-sacked Manning lead to Ridley touchdown run of six yards.
It was the 65th straight game the Patriots won at home when leading at halftime. The Patriots hit the road again next Sunday, as they take on the Seahawks in Seattle before returning home on the 21st to take on the Jets.
WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss Rob Gronkowski's meeting with the media on Friday. Gronk said he doesn't anticipate changing the way he plays, noting that he wants to "keep smashing and dashing."
Julian Edelman joins Merloni, Fauria, and Benz after Patriots training camp.
We return to our weekly segments with the one and only Peter King of MMQB and NBC's Football Night in America.
Jackie Mac joins the guys to discuss her thoughts on a possible mid-season tournament in the NBA, LeBron's return to Cleveland, trade rumors with the Celtics and Red Sox, and Darrelle Revis' contract situation.
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston to talk about the Lebron James Saga, the possibility of Rajon Rondo being traded, and the future of Marcus Smart.
Former coach of Celtics 1st-round pick Marcus Smart, Travis Ford joins MFB to talk about what Celtics fans should expect from the strong point guard. Among other things, Coach Ford says Smart will be a hard worker, and will improve his shooting ability.
Tim Kurkjian joins the program to discuss the Red Sox options at the trade deadline.
Kevin Millar joins Merloni, Fauria, and Benz to discuss David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia's struggles, and Jon Lester's contract.
Rob Bradford is joined by WEEI.com Bruins beat writer DJ Bean, as well as Boston sports fan/blogger Turtleboy to talk all things Bruins free agency. With the B's recent moves, the conversation turns to where the Bruins might next turn and what kind of dent losing Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton might make.
DJ discusses Shawn Thornton's new deal, and the on going negotiations with Jerome Iginla
DJ Bean joins the program to dismiss the recent rumors that the Bruins are in discussions to trade Brad Marchand to the Sharks for Patrick Marleau
John, Gerry, and Steve DeOssie discuss Tom Brady's impact on the rest of the Patriots, plus Steve tells tales from his old days as a NFL linebacker
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Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront certainly put on quite the pitching performance, as the Red Sox were trounced by the Jays. Does this change the team's approach to the trade deadline?
Christian tells a story about taking his girlfriend to see "Jersey Boys" in NYC, but he leaves out some crucial details. Luckily, she was listening and called the show to clarify exactly what kind of shenanigans he was trying to pull.
MFB discuss a Peter King article that suggests many NFL coaches and assistant coaches have felt increasing pressure over big-money fantasy football players. Christian also weighs in specifically on how his knowledge of game-plans resulted directly in him winning his first season as a fantasy football player.
The Sox lost 14-1 as Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront both had awful performances. On the heels of the loss, rumors began to fly regarding Jon Lester and John Lackey possibly being traded.
We talk about the latest news surrounding Jon Lester and the Red Sox. Could he be dealt to the Dodgers?
We talk about four of the biggest mistakes the Red Sox have made over the past 30+ years.
We discuss the return of Rob Gronkowski, his comments to the media today, and what a healthy (or unhealthy) Gronk will mean for the 2014 Patriots.
Mut and Villani are talking about whether the Red Sox will give Jon Lester the type of contract he is looking for, or whether they might be shopping him with rumors of the Red Sox scouting Cole Hamels.
Mut and Villani are talking about the MLB All Star Game, Adam Wainwright and Derek Jeter, and what are some of the worst ideas in sports.
Sam and Zach discuss changing the format of the Podcast, the Chris Archer-David Ortiz debacle, and LeBron James being a super genius
Particularly in a year where the Red Sox have struggled while trying to integrate numerous young players into regular big league roles, accusations that Red Sox prospects are overrated -- whether by the team or writers -- have been widespread. Jim Callis of MLB.com joins the show to take stock of the matter, and to discuss the team-building impact of overrating and underrating prospects.
With the trade deadline looming, the next few days will be defined by how teams value prospects -- and their potential long-term contributions -- against big leaguers with established track records who can address immediate needs. Are prospects being valued accurately? Red Sox left-hander Andrew Miller -- once one of the two key chips that sent Miguel Cabrera from the Marlins to the Tigers -- assesses the matter.
Rob gave the latest on Jon Lester trade talks and the flap between Ortiz and the Rays.More from this show