Patriots send Broncos to their fifth straight defeat

AP, DENVER, Colorado

Tue, Nov 14, 2017 - Page 16

Denver is no longer Tom Brady’s House of Horrors and the Broncos sure do not scare anybody anymore.

Brady on Sunday threw three touchdown passes as the New England Patriots matched their own American Football Conference record with their 12th consecutive road victory, pummeling the Broncos 41-16.

Brady’s 86th regular-season road win broke a tie with Peyton Manning for the most ever.

“It’s always hard to win in the NFL, certainly on the road,” Brady said. “We found a way to do it last year and we’re off to a good start this year.”

Not so the Broncos.

These teams have represented the American Football Conference in the past four Super Bowls and the Broncos (3-6) were hoping a visit from their rivals would help shake them from their funk.

Beat Brady, suggested Aqib Talib, and “the swag, the energy in this locker room, it’ll skyrocket.”

Instead, the Broncos fizzled.

They lost their fifth straight game, their worst skid in seven seasons, and they dropped back-to-back games to the Patriots (7-2) in Denver for the first time since 1966.

Avoiding Von Miller all night and throwing for 266 yards on 25-of-34 passing, Brady improved to 8-9 against the Broncos, the only team he has a losing record against, and he won for just the fourth time in 11 trips to Denver.

The Patriots also won a dozen consecutive road games from 2006 to 2008. The NFL record is 18 set by the Joe Montana-led San Francisco 49ers from 1988 to 1990.

Speaking of historic, the Patriots for the first time since 1979 had a special teams takeaway, a blocked punt and a kickoff return for a touchdown, a trifecta that fueled a comfortable 27-9 halftime lead.

The Patriots went three-and-out to start the game, but rookie Isaiah McKenzie’s muffed punt led to Brady’s 14-yard touchdown toss to running back Rex Burkhead.

“That’s not the first punt McKenzie has muffed this year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

Indeed, it was his fifth fumble, including four muffs.

“It puts us in a big hole,” the rookie wide receiver said. “I put the blame all on me. If I would’ve caught that first punt, did anything with it, besides turn it over, then probably... things would’ve changed for us.”

The Patriots had five touchdowns and a pair of field goals before they would punt again.

“We knew McKenzie had muffed a couple so we told our gunners to get down there and make it tough on him,” the Patriots’ Devin McCourty said. “Then we get the blocked punt return.”

After kicking a 39-yard field goal, Brandon McManus failed on the ensuing kickoff to get in front of returner Dion Lewis, whose 103-yard return down Denver’s demoralized sideline made it 14-3.

“How are you supposed to win against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots when you’re starting off like that?” Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe said. “You can’t.”

Then, Burkhead sliced through the line to block Riley Dixon’s punt at the Broncos’ 30-yard line, leading to Stephen Gostkowski’s second field goal and a 20-6 lead.

“I have not,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph replied when asked if he had ever seen a worse special teams performance. “That wasn’t the only issue we had. We were one for four in the red zone. We moved the ball better tonight, but we didn’t score touchdowns and defensively they scored on seven straight possessions.”

When the Broncos finally forced another punt in the fourth quarter, they were whistled for 12 men on the field, giving the Patriots a fresh set of downs.

Brady took advantage of that gaffe by throwing a six-yard touchdown pass to James White, capping both the blowout and a 16-play, 94-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes.

“Besides that first series, we couldn’t stop them,” Miller said.