For the first time since 2002, the New England Patriots are heading into Week 7 of the regular season with a losing record: the team lost to the visiting Denver Broncos with a final score of 18-12. While the Patriots came close to pulling off an improbable comeback, the team eventually made too many mistakes on both offense and defense to earn a victory.
Patriots (2-3) 12 : 18 Broncos (2-3)
The Patriots started the game on defense after winning the coin toss, but quickly had to watch their opponent move down the field. On just the second offensive play of the game, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock connected with wide receiver Tim Patrick over Jason McCourty for a gain of 41 yards. While the team gained only three more yards after the play, it did eventually take the lead on a 45-yard field goal. [Patriots 0 : 3 Broncos]
New England’s offense responded with a run-heavy approach behind it new-look offensive line and was also able to move the football well, at least initially. After gaining one first down, however, the team turned the football over: Cam Newton’s first pass attempt of the game — a short throw intended for James White — was tipped at the line of scrimmage and subsequently intercepted by Denver defensive lineman DeShawn Williams.
The interception allowed Denver to set up shop at the Patriots’ 33-yard line. While New England’s defense prevented the Broncos from reaching the end zone for the first time all game, the unit could not stop the team from adding to its lead: Brandon McManus was on the mark for a second field goal attempt. [Patriots 0 : 6 Broncos]
New England’s offense found more success on its second drive. Behind a healthy dose of running and some big passes to James White, the unit quickly moved into Denver territory. At that point, the series stalled: a second-down sack that also saw right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor suffer an apparent ankle injury, was followed up by a short pass to White and a Jake Bailey punt.
While the kick did force the Broncos to start their third drive at their own 9-yard line, they were able to move the football effectively to end the first quarter.
The second period started like the first one ended: with Denver on the move. The team was able to reach the New England red zone for the first time all game, but it was once again stopped before reaching the end zone: two straight incomplete pass attempts on second and third down forced the Broncos to bring McManus onto the field again to kick a field goal. It was good to increase the Patriots’ deficit to nine points. [Patriots 0 : 9 Broncos]
The Patriots’ offense finally started to build some momentum at that point, with the passing game slowly coming to life: Damiere Byrd, Ryan Izzo, Isaiah Zuber and Damien Harris all had catches on a drive that saw the team put up its first three points via a Nick Folk field goal. New England might have left more points on the field — a bad snap from stand-in center Joe Thuney threw the team back 15 yards and out of the red zone — but the 41-yard kick at least made it a one-possession game again. [Patriots 3 : 9 Broncos]
Momentum shifted back the Broncos’ way on the next drive, however. While the Patriots defense again kept its opponent out of the end zone, in part because of a massive 13-yard sack by John Simon on a 2nd-and-10 at the New England 21-yard line, Denver was still able to add more points to its total and finish its fourth straight drive with a field goal. [Patriots 3 : 12 Broncos]
With only 19 seconds remaining the first half, the Patriots decided to take a knee to head into the locker room.
After deferring in the first half, New England started the second on offense and with a chance to cut into its deficit. The unit failed to do that, though, and had to punt the football back to Denver after only three offensive plays — the final one a sack and fumble that was recovered by the Patriots.
The offense’s slow start to the third quarter was mirrored by New England’s defense. While the unit did force the Broncos into a 3rd-and-21 situation early during the series after a Ja’Whaun Bentley sack, the visitors did not just convert on a 35-yard pass to Tim Patrick but eventually drive to another score: the Patriots again held in the red zone, but Denver once more sent McManus out for a field goal. [Patriots 3 : 15 Broncos]
New England’s offensive struggles continued on the next series, which ended after just four plays when tight end Ryan Izzo coughed up the football on a 17-yard reception. The Broncos recovered and returned the fumble to the Patriots’ 42-yard line. While they only advanced six yards on the ensuing drive, they were still able to increase their lead thanks to Brandon McManus’ sixth field goal of the day. [Patriots 3 : 18 Broncos]
Things did not get any better for New England on its next drive — quite the opposite actually: Newton threw his second interception of the day on a tipped pass to open and quickly end the team’s next series. Denver, meanwhile, started its next possession at the Patriots 39.
Despite taking over in New England territory once again, the Broncos failed to add points: for the first time all game, the Patriots’ defense forced a punt to open the final period. The offense, however, was unable to get anything going yet again and quickly went three-and-out on the following drive. Denver was also not able to gain a first down on its next drive, though, which in turn allowed the Patriots to reply with their second scoring drive.
With Damiere Byrd catching a 19-yard pass from Cam Newton and the quarterback himself gaining 38 yards on a scramble, New England found itself in a goal-to-go situation. The team capitalized on it as Newton successfully reached across the goal line on a quarterback sneak from the 1 — scoring the game’s first touchdown and giving the Patriots some life:
QB1 for 6. pic.twitter.com/w7Yaw6mHT1— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) October 18, 2020
Down nine points after the score, the Patriots attempted to go for two but they were unable to find the end zone this time as Newton was stopped short of the goal line on a scramble attempt. [Patriots 9 : 18 Broncos]
Momentum did stay with the Patriots on the ensuing drive, though. While the Broncos did gain some yardage early on, cornerback J.C. Jackson was able to intercept Drew Lock on third down to give New England its first takeaway of the game:
Picked. pic.twitter.com/GjiVH4RuG6— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) October 18, 2020
While the Patriots offense lost yards on back-to-back plays to open the next drive, a 12-yard scramble by Newton on third down allowed the team to send out Nick Folk for a 38-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and New England suddenly was within six points of the Broncos. [Patriots 12 : 18 Broncos]
With 5:25 left in the game, Denver had to work some clock in order to thwart the Patriots’ comeback attempt. What followed, however, was Drew Lock’s second interception in as many pass attempts — this one courtesy of Jonathan Jones:
Picked. Again. pic.twitter.com/aGqxigKrXL— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) October 18, 2020
With only three minutes remaining in the half, the Patriots were in position to drive for the lead and complete their comeback attempt. The series included some trickery — wide receiver Julian Edelman completed passes to Newton and White — but eventually came down to a 4th-and-10 in Denver territory. At that point, however, the team ran out of luck: Newton threw off the mark intended for N’Keal Harry and New England turned the football over on downs to eventually lose the game.