FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was a surprise contributor to the Patriots' 31-21 victory over the Broncos. The seventh-round draft choice out of Nebraska was making his season debut and was credited with a key pass defended in the second quarter to end the Broncos' fourth drive.
That was right around the time the game started to turn in favor of the Patriots.
"It was good to see Alfonzo out here," coach Bill Belichick said. "He did show up and make a couple plays, so that was good."
Dennard, who missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, replaced Sterling Moore in the nickel defense late in the second quarter. The personnel change, coupled with a shift to a lighter look along the defensive line with three ends on the field, helped produce that key stop.
The Patriots kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive to open a 17-7 lead and never really looked back. Thus Dennard's third-down breakup over the middle on receiver Brandon Stokley was one of the key plays in the game.
"I felt pretty good. I was a little nervous out there, got a few mistakes I've got to fix," Dennard admitted afterward. "I mean, going up against Peyton Manning, he's a great quarterback."
Late in the fourth quarter, Manning attacked Dennard down the left sideline, and the rookie was up to the challenge again.
"If they keep coming at me, I get in my comfort zone. I mean, just go out there and make plays. Like Coach Bill said, 'Just go out there and compete.' That's what I like to do," Dennard said, adding that he has some technique issues to clean up.