Sluggish out of the gates (save for a 33-yard scoring pass to Chad Ochocinco, his first TD with the Patriots), Tom Brady put together a solid afternoon in a stadium that hasn't been friendly to him in the past (he was 1-5 entering the game). Brady completed 23 of 34 passes for 320 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Aaron Hernandez set career highs with nine catches and 129 yards to pace a Deion Branch-less receiving corps.
Not only did the Patriots pile up 141 yards on 39 carries (3.9-yard average), but the rushing attack generated three scores (from Tom Brady, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead). Rookie Stevan Ridley paced the group with 65 yards on 11 carries, while Woodhead added 40 yards on seven trots. Heck, even Aaron Hernandez added a 16-yard romp.
It's not like Tim Tebow put up 400 yards, but Denver's passing game was efficient. Tebow completed 11 of 22 passes for 194 yards with no TDs or INTs. The Patriots had four sacks for a whopping 53 yards, highlighted by two sacks (including one strip-sack) by Mark Anderson and a 28-yard game-sealing sack by Rob Ninkovich with about two minutes to play. The Patriots got bailed out when wide receiver Demaryius Moore failed to complete a wide-open pass off a well-designed trick play.
The Patriots got gashed early and often and only a trio of Denver fumbles in the second quarter bailed them out. Denver piled up 252 yards on 31 carries (8.1-yard average) and scored three times on the ground. Tim Tebow piled up 93 yards on 12 carriers with a pair of scores, while Willis McGahee added 70 yards on seven carries and Lance Ball added 64 yards on 11 trots. Ball started the fumblepalooza that forced the Broncos to try to pass their way back into the game.
Another solid afternoon for Scotty O'Brien's crew. A muffed punt by Quan Cosby late in the first half allowed New England to tack on a field goal and take an 11-point lead into halftime. Zoltan Mesko put three of his four punts inside the 20, while the kickoff return team contained Cosby (4 returns for 71 yards, 17.8 average). The Patriots' average start position was their own 42. Denver's? Its own 18.
The Patriots called a halftime audible, switching to a 3-4 front that, combined with Denver's need to pass while trying to rally from behind, limited the damage on the ground (Denver piled up 182 of its 252 rushing yards in the first half). Facing early adversity, including a knee injury for Andre Carter, the coaching staff didn't let players get discouraged and New England put together a strong finish to ensure there would be no Tebow Time down the stretch.