Denver has never been a pleasant place for the Belichick-led Patriots. In fact, since 2000 the Patriots have lost more games in Denver (7) than anywhere else except Miami (10).
So this game was especially sweet.
It didn’t seem to be any different than recent history at first, as the Patriots’ offense went 3-and-out to start the game. But on the ensuing punt, Jacob Hollister pounced on the muffed punt to give Brady and the offense a second chance. Two plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone; a lead they wouldn’t forfeit the rest of the night.
In what could be seen as foreshadowing of Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl absence, the Broncos spent most of the first half moving the ball with ease on the back of Emmanuel Sanders (6 catches, 137 yards) as Butler seemed powerless to stop the shifty WR.
Fortunately, the Patriots bend-don’t-break defense held the line, only allowing 3 first half field goals. And the special teams was sublime.
After the first Denver FG, Dion “Squirty” Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for the second Patriots score of the night. Two drives later, the special teams unit shined again -- this time with Rex Burkhead blocking a Denver punt.
The first half ended the way many have done with Brady at the helm: with a last-minute TD pass, this time to witness protection recipient Dwayne Allen.
Having taken a 27-9 lead into halftime, the second half felt like a formality. The Broncos started the third quarter with a 14 play, 75 yard drive that finally ended in more that 3 points, but that would be the last of their scoring.
The Patriots answered with TDs from the rest of the RB stable (a Dion Lewis run and a James White catch).
There was nothing left to do but bring in backup QB Jimmy Garop--er, Brian Hoyer for mop-up duty.
With the win, Brady passes Manning for most road wins with 86, while Belichick ties Tom Landry for third most wins all-time with 270.