Brady Bests Manning, Again.
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 14:10
Round 13 in the Brady vs. Manning bout was relatively tame compared to previous matchups. The meeting between the two quarterbacks, was the 13th of their careers (with Brady now holding a 9-4 advantage) and the first since 2010, when Peyton’s Colts almost overcame a 17-point deficit, en route to a 31-28 loss to the Patriots.
There was nothing like that on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. No 4th and 2. No AFC championship-like comebacks or chokes. The Patriots’ 31-21 victory over Peyton’s new team, the Denver Broncos, was never in doubt.
Sure, Stevan Ridley’s ill-advised fumble late in the fourth quarter, after the Broncos had cut the Patriots’ lead to 31-21, put a bit of a scare into the Patriot Faithful. But, the New England defense (three turnovers) stepped up, as it had all day, and delivered when it mattered most.
Linebacker Rob Ninkovich (two forced fumbles) stripped Willis McGahee on the Patriots’ 14-yard line. Jermaine Cunningham fell on the loose ball and sealed the victory for New England (3-2).
The Patriots’ offense stalled a bit in the fourth quarter, but for most of the day it was clicking on all cylinders. Tom Brady (23 of 31, 223 yards, 1 TD, 1 rushing TD) was methodical from the start and the New England running game, once again impressed, totaling up 251 yards on the ground. For the first time, since 1978, the Patriots rushed for over 200 yards in back-to-back games.
Ridley went off for 151 yards on 28 carries and a score, while Brandon Bolden, who burst onto the scene last week in Buffalo, was solid, rushing for 54 yards on 14 rushes. Danny Woodhead also had a great day on the ground, running for 47 yards on just seven carries, an average of 6.7 yards a carry.
The star of the game, however, was Wes Welker, who after a slow start has racked up 30 receptions over the last three games, including 13 on Sunday for 104 yards. Brady went to him from the beginning, something we haven’t seen this season.
On the Patriots’ first scoring drive, midway through the first quarter, Brady found Welker for a 15-yard completion to start things off. TB12 connected with Welker three more times on the drive, concluding with an eight yard score to put the Pats up 7-0. The touchdown pass extended Brady’s streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass in 37 straight games, good for third all-time.
The Broncos wasted no time tying the score, however. On the next drive, Manning led his team 80 yards in just four minutes, finding tight end Joel Dreesen for a 1-yard score to knot the game at seven.
Brady responded on the ensuing drive, going to the no-huddle, shotgun offense that has become a signature for the Patriots’ offense. Brady was 6 of 7 for 59 yards on the drive, with a 10-yard strike to Brandon Lloyd, who fell just short of the end zone, at the one-yard line. Shane Vereen ran it in on the next play to put the Patriots back on top, 14-7.
With five minutes to go in the half, and the Patriots starting at their own two-yard line, the offense went into the no huddle, again. Brady short to Welker, 7 yards. Brady short to Welker, 6 yards. Brady to Woodhead, 25 yards. Bolden rush right, 24 yards. Brady to Gronkowski, 10 yards.
Those were just five plays, fromt the five minute, 16 play, 93-yard drive the Pats put together at the end of the half. However, even after getting to the Denver one-yard line, New England couldn’t put it in and settled for a 23-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. The kick was good and put the Pats up 17-7 at the half.
The two teams swapped scoreless possessions to start the second half, before the Patriots got rolling again. This time, it was another monster 16-play drive that started at their own 20. After a series of short, accurate passes (sound familiar) and efficient rushes, the Patriots found themselves at the Denver one-yard line, again.
On third down, Brady reached the ball over the pile and past the goal line, before finding his whole body rolling into the end zone. It was his second straight week with a rushing touchdown, this one extending New England’s lead to 24-7.
The Broncos’ first play after the score did them in. Ninkovich strip-sacked Manning with Vince Wilfork plopping down on the football at the Denver 14.
After a pass interference call on Denver and a false start on New England, the Patriots set up at the Denver eight. Ridley then ran in a score, giving the Pats a 31-7 lead with 4:51 to go in the third quarter.
Denver didn’t back down, though. On the next drive, Manning led a 10 play, 90-yard drive in just 3:34, that culminated with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker to cut the New England lead to 31-14.