The last time the New England Patriots were under .500 this late in the season you have to go all the way back to the 2002 campaign. In 2020, however, it's that rare spot where Bill Belichick's squad (2-3) finds itself after falling to the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium, 18-12. For a large chunk of Sunday's matchup between these two AFC teams, the Broncos had this game handily, leading 18-3 heading into the fourth quarter. However, back-to-back interceptions by Drew Lock gave Cam Newton and the Patriots a window to mount a comeback that ultimately came up just short, despite making it a one-score contest.
Denver led wire-to-wire in the winning effort that was largely on the back of kicker Brandon McManus, who netted all six of his field goals and accounted for all of the Broncos scoring on the afternoon. As for Denver's defense, they held the Patriots in check for a large portion of the game and were able to tip two of Newton's passes that ultimately turned into two interceptions. They also came up with a massive fourth-quarter stop as Newton and the New England offense tried to march down the field for a game-winning drive.
For more on how this game unfolded, check out our main takeaways from this contest below. To see how it went down in real-time re-live the action in our live blog.
Why Denver won
When talking about the Broncos win over New England, you have to start with Brandon McManus. The veteran kicker accounted for all of Denver's 18 points in the win, netting all six of his field-goal attempts including two that were beyond 50-plus yards. While Drew Lock and the offense couldn't get into the end zone, they were able to get in McManus' range and allow them to start the game with six-straight drives that ended with a field goal. Their first punt of the day occurred with 14:10 to play in the fourth quarter.
Running back Phillip Lindsay and receiver Tim Patrick were instrumental in the win, both accounting for 101 yards on the ground and in the receiving game respectfully. Meanwhile, quarterback Drew Lock was shaky in his return after missing time since Week 2 due to a shoulder injury. He nearly allowed the Patriots back in this game after throwing back-to-back interceptions in the fourth quarter.
That said, the Broncos played an extremely disciplined brand of football in their Week 6 win over New England. Vic Fangio's team was penalized just twice in this game, with the first coming in the form of a delay of game infraction at 10:29 in the fourth quarter that they essentially elected to take. When you match that with a defense that forced three turnovers, it's a perfect formula to come away with a win.
Why New England lost
The Patriots -- specifically the offense -- simply weren't able to play at a high level for all four quarters. Cam Newton and the New England offense managed just three points through the first three quarters and gave the ball away three times. Newton had two of his passes tipped that resulted in Broncos interceptions, while the third came in the third quarter when tight end Ryan Izzo had the ball punched out of his arm after a 17-yard reception. Two of those turnovers resulted in field goals on Denver's ensuing drive and helped extend their lead.
New England's offense really didn't have much pop in the passing game as there were minimal downfield shots. Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry -- the Patriots' top-two wide receivers -- also combined for just two receptions for eight yards. Newton finished with 157 yards through the air on a 68 completion percentage, but the air attack was essentially nonexistent for Josh McDaniels. Newton's legs did come alive in the second half, however, as he finished with 76 yards on the ground and a goal-line touchdown run.
While the defense was able to come up clutch by picking off Lock twice in the fourth quarter to give New England a chance at a miracle win, Newton's pass to Harry on a fourth-and-10 try at the Denver 24 yard line fell short as did the comeback.
While there were a number of turning points throughout this game, the big gut punch for the Patriots came on Denver's first offensive possession of the second half. New England's defense had Drew Lock pinned on a third-and-21 situation at their own 25-yard line, but the quarterback was able to drop back and complete a 35-yard bomb to Tim Patrick to convert the first down. The Broncos would eventually go on to kick a field goal and go up 15-3. At the time of the third-down try, it seemed like the Patriots were building momentum to get the ball back and possibly get within a score of taking the lead. That deep shot by Lock to Patrick eliminated that opportunity and kept Denver humming along.
The other moment of note in the Broncos win came with 6:57 to play in the first half. The Patriots offense was cruising down the field and Cam Newton had his offense inside the red zone. As quickly as they got in there, however, a bad snap by Joe Thuney -- who made the move from left guard to center for this game -- had the ball sail over Newton's head and the quarterback had to pick it up at the Denver 34-yard line. That put New England in a second-and-25 scenario and forced them to eventually just kick a field goal. So instead of possibly scoring a touchdown to make it a 12-7 Denver lead, it ended up being 12-3.
Play of the game
You could easily point to the double-pass or the Philly special-type throw that Julian Edelman made to Cam Newton as the key highlight of this game as Josh McDaniels emptied out his bag of trick to try and mount the comeback, but this 38-yard run by Newton was by far the top play. This was a pure scramble by the Patriots quarterback, who took it 38-yards down to the Denver eight-yard line. That run also put Newton over 5,000 rushing yards for his career, making him just the second quarterback in NFL history to get over that milestone. Michael Vick is the other and holds the all-time quarterback rushing record with 6,109 yards.
From here, the Patriots will look to pick up the pieces and move to .500 when they host old friend Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, the Broncos will head back to Denver to and await the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7.