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Starting inside its 20, the offense didn’t do much with the opportunity, though keeping Manning out of the end zone is a win regardless.
The defense again had a nice play on Denver’s second possession, with Jerod Mayo blitzing through the middle of the line and going low on Manning for a 7-yard loss on third and 5.
New England got things rolling the second time around, running 10 of 12 plays out of the no-huddle. Ridley (151 yards) kept picking up chunks of yardage so Brady kept giving him the ball, though he also went to old reliable Wes Welker three times, including on the touchdown.
Brady looked right, pumped right, and then turned and found a fairly open Welker on the left side. The receiver took it in untouched for an 8-yard score, his first of the season.
Denver answered right back, helped in large part by a one-handed, 30-yard sideline grab by Thomas, who was the Broncos’ only big-play provider (nine catches, 188 yards).
After an end zone pass-interference call on Devin McCourty moved Denver ahead 20 yards, Manning hit tight end Joel Dreessen with the 1-yard score to tie the game.
The Patriots responded with a 14-play touchdown drive (Shane Vereen scoring on a 1-yard run) and then a 16-play, 93-yard drive for a field goal that let them take a 17-7 lead into halftime.
They would score 14 more points in the third quarter before the Broncos began to come back and make things interesting.
But it was the defense to the rescue.
“I think we played well together as a team,” Wilfork said. “All three units played very, very well. That’s how it’s going to have to be. If we want to be successful, we have to play like that.
“We have to play together as a team, 60 minutes, everybody doing their job and executing well.”
Shalise Manza Young can be reached at email@example.com.