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Patriots Clinch AFC East, Defeat Denver Broncos 41-23

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos

The New England Patriots extended their winning streak to six games on Sunday, throttling the red-hot Denver Broncos (8-6) 41-23 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo.

Offense Continues to Roll

Denver came into the contest with one of the best defenses in the league, but that turned out to be not the case against the high-flying Patriots’ offense. Quarterback Tom Brady moved the ball at will, and led a turnover free attack.

Brady finished the contest with 320 yards and two touchdowns on 23-34 passing. The Michigan alum also scored a second-quarter rushing touchdown that ended up being the game winning score.

New England’s rushing game also fared well against a difficult Broncos’ defense, totaling 137 yards on the ground (one of their best performances during the second half of the season). Rookie Stevan Ridley had 60 yards on nine carries, Danny Woodhead had 40 yards and a touchdown, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis recorded his eighth score of the year.

On the receiving end, Chad Ochocinco registered his first touchdown of the year, tying the game 7-7 with a 33-yard first quarter touchdown. Aaron Hernandez had his best game of the season with nine catches for 129 yards and touchdown, while Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker had four receptions each.

Defense Opportunistic

The Patriots defense may have looked like the league’s worst unit in the opening 15 minutes, but clamped down afterward by allowing just seven points in the final three-quarters. New England’s 32nd ranked pass defense allowed Tim Tebow to total just 194 yards through the air, while failing to surrender a passing touchdown.

The ground game was a different story, but was solid after an atrocious first quarter. Denver had a 16-7 lead in the opening frame, but were outscored 34-7 in the final three-quarters. The Patriots gave up 252 rushing yards, but owned a 33:41-26:19 time-of-possession advantage.

The defense finished the game with four sacks and won the turnover battle 3-0.

Three Studs

Aaron Hernandez
The sophomore tight end was an unstoppable force in the first half, hauling in six receptions and having 99 total yards and a touchdown in the first half. Hernandez finished the game with nine receptions for 129 yards.

Second quarter
The Patriots made the plays when it mattered, forcing a pair of second quarter fumbles, converting a vital fourth down on their third touchdown drive, and recovering a muffed punt right before the half.

Mark Anderson
Anderson also had his best game as a Patriot, consistently being a menace in the Denver backfield. Anderson finished the game with a pair of sacks, and had a key forced fumble and recovery which changed the complexion of the game in the second quarter.

Three Duds

Rush Defense
New England’s rush defense was abysmal in the first quarter, surrendering the most first quarter yards in the Bill Belichick era. The Patriots defense allowed 182 yards in the opening 30 minutes, and finished the game with 252 yards allowed.

Tim Tebow tallied 93 yards and two touchdowns, including a nine-yard touchdown in the first and a two-yard plunge in the fourth. Lance Ball also scored on a 32-yard first quarter run.

Third Down Offense
Despite the lopsided final score, the Patriots were ineffective on third-down, going 5-12 on the afternoon. Zoltan Mesko had four punts, averaging 40.5 yards to limit Denver field position.

Training Staff
The Patriots continued to be bitten by the injury bug, with Andre Carter leaving the contest with an injury. He joins the ranks the Pat Chung, Brandon Spikes, and Sebastian Vollmer who have all missed time with various ailments.

Looking Ahead

Having clinched the division, the Patriots will head home for the front end of back-to-back home games to end the season. New England will host Miami (5-9) at 1:00 p.m. on CBS next Saturday in a Christmas Eve matinee.

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