By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
October 27, 2002

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FOXBORO, MA -- Bill Belichick had said after the Patriots last loss that it was time to start all over again.

Instead the World Champs just continued right where they left off, losing their fourth straight game on Sunday 24-16 against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium.

Denver took a 21-7 lead into the locker room at halftime and played near perfect, converting 6-of-6 on third down and outgaining the Patriots 180-99 in net yards in the first half.  New England recovered a fumble and intercepted Denver quarterback Brian Griese during that span, and still found themselves trailing by two touchdowns at intermission.

"It's hard to go out there and play a perfect game," said Belichick after the game.  "We made some mistakes, they made some mistakes, we lost by a touchdown to a good team."

The Broncos dominated the game from the start, with Denver converting third down after third down, with their first punt not coming until the third quarter after scoring on three of their five first half possessions.

Denver's defense held the Patriots offense to three-and-out on New England's opening drive, and then marched down the field on 7-plays for a 1-yard touchdown run by runningback Clinton Portis, giving the Broncos a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

The Patriots offense sputtered again and punted, and on Denver's first play from scrimmage Brian Griese was picked off by Ty Law trying to go deep to Rod Smith.  Law intercepted the ball at the Patriots 15-yard line and it appeared New England may have gotten just the spark they needed.

However the ensuing drive stalled and the Patriots punted, and Denver put together another scoring drive.  They marched 72-yards on 9-plays, with Griese hitting tight end Shannon Sharpe from 8-yards out to increase Denver's lead to 14-7 just :05 seconds into the second quarter.

After the Patriots punted Denver took over possession and New England's defense came up big again.  On the Broncos' fourth play from scrimmage Griese completed a pass to Smith for an 8-yard gain, but New England safety Victor Green hit Smith and caused the Denver receiver to fumble the football.  Ty Law recovered the football and the Patriots had the Ball at Denver's 42-yard line.  The Broncos challenged the play but the call was upheld.

Six plays later the Patriots saw runningback Antowain Smith reach the endzone on a 3-yard touchdown run, and suddenly New England was back in the football game, trailing just 14-7.

But Denver answered, with Griese instrumenting an 8-play 70-yard drive that ended when Portis again plunged into the endzone, this time from 4-yards out.  The lead was now 21-7 and the crowd in Foxboro exploded into a sea of boos which followed the home team into the locker room at halftime.

The Broncos opened the third quarter with a drive that ended at the Patriots 30-yard line, with kicker Jason Elam coming out onto the field to attempt a 48-yard field goal.  The kick missed wide right, and the momentum appeared to be changing.

That belief was further increased when Adam Vinatieri cut the lead to 21-10 when he kicked a 26-yard field goal.  The Patriots later put together another scoring drive at the end of the third quarter which culminated in an 8-yard touchdown pass to Christian Fauria on the first play of the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 21-16.  New England then went for the two point conversion and failed.

"That was the decision," said Belichick when asked why they opted to go for two.  "We were down by 11 and we scored a touchdown, so at that point in the game we tried to cut it to a one score game."

But Denver added a 19-yard field goal on their ensuing drive, and after New England went three-and-out put together yet another drive.  They went from the Patriots 45-yard line all the way down to New England's 21 where the drive stalled.  Elam came out to attempt a 39-yard field goal and missed again wide right, and the stage seemed set for a heroic comeback.

However the Patriots final drive failed and they punted away the football for the final time.  The final dagger came when Denver converted a 3rd-and-8 play after Griese found receiver Ashley Lelie on a  40-yard pass play after Lelie beat Otis Smith, sealing the game for the Broncos.

At 3-4 New England will now head on the road for the next three games, facing Buffalo, Chicago, and then Oakland.

"We played a good football team out there today and in the end the Broncos made a few more plays then we did and deserved to win the game," said Belichick.

"We had our chances there at the end to maybe get back in it but we just couldn't manage to do enough.  That's about the story of the game."


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