FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There were several momentum-shifting moments that went New England’s way in Sunday’s 31-21 victory over the Broncos, running back Willis McGahee taking responsibility for two of the biggest ones.
With the Broncos driving early in the fourth quarter at the Patriots’ 47 yard line and trailing, 31-14, McGahee let a Peyton Manning pass on fourth and 1 slip through his fingers. Instead of a sure first down to keep the drive alive, the Patriots instead took over on downs.
“No excuses, man, I dropped it,” McGahee said after the game. “Point blank.”
Manning later got the Broncos back in the game by leading a touchdown drive that made it 31-21, and Denver was deep in New England territory looking for another score when McGahee made the blunder that ultimately sealed the victory for the Patriots. With 3:42 left on the clock, Patriots linebacker forced a McGahee fumble at the New England 14-yard line, the ball recovered by Jermaine Cunningham at the 11.
“I had two key plays, the dropped pass on fourth down and one and the fumble on the goal line,” McGahee said. "That probably changed the game for us when I fumbled that ball.”
The Broncos' running back, who finished with 51 yards rushing on 14 carries and 51 yards receiving on 5 catches, credited Ninkovich for forcing the ball out.
“He just made a good play,” McGahee said. “I had it high and tight, but still, you’ve got to do better than that. I think that changed the game for us and I take full credit for that, not getting down there. ... Put it on my shoulders.”
McGahee might be willing to take the heat, but he certainly wasn’t the only culprit for the Broncos, who turned the ball over three times.
On the opening drive of the game, Manning connected on a 43-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas that would have set the Broncos up deep in Patriots territory. But Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore poked the ball out and recovered it.
“The turnover set us back that first drive and we were just in the hole from there,” McGahee said.