Patriots send Broncos to fifth straight loss

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THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER (AP) — Speaking of historic, the Patriots for the first time since 1979 had a special teams takeaway, a blocked punt and a kickoff return for a touchdown, a trifecta that fueled a comfortable 27-9 halftime lead.

The Patriots went three-and-out to start the game but rookie Isaiah McKenzie’s muffed punt — his fifth fumble of the year — led to Brady’s 14-yard TD toss to running back Rex Burkhead and set the tone for another head-scratching performance by the bungling Broncos, who that fancied themselves contenders after a 3-1 start.

After kicking a 39-yard field goal, Brandon McManus failed on the ensuing kickoff to get in front of returner Dion Lewis, whose 103-yard return down Denver’s demoralized sideline made it 14-3.

Then, Burkhead sliced through the line to block Riley Dixon’s punt at the Broncos’ 30-yard line, leading to Stephen Gostkowski’s second field goal.

When the Broncos finally forced another punt in the fourth quarter, they were whistled for 12 men on the field, giving the Patriots a fresh set of downs. Brady took advantage of that gaffe by throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to James White, making it 41-16.

That capped a 16-play, 94-yard drive that ate up 7 minutes, 31 seconds.

Brock Osweiler hooked up with Emmanuel Sanders five times for 114 yards in the first half but Denver stalled twice in the red zone and also at the Patriots 21, settling for field goals while the Patriots were scoring touchdowns.

Brady hit tight end Dwayne Allen from 11 yards out, Allen’s first catch of the year giving the Patriots a 27-9 halftime lead.

Even when the Broncos finally found the end zone on Demaryius Thomas’ 8-yard TD catch, the Patriots responded quickly with a 7-yard TD run by Lewis.

MILESTONE WIN: Patriots coach Bill Belichick moved into a third-place tie with Tom Landry on the all-time head-coaching list for wins, with 270. He trails only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324).

INJURIES: Broncos tight end A.J. Derby was knocked out with a shoulder injury.

UP NEXT: The Broncos host the Cincinnati Bengals.

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