FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots accumulated a franchise record 35 first downs Sunday, but it wasn't until Rob Ninkovich forced a fumble on running back Willis McGahee with 3:42 left in the game did they secure 31-21 win.
Tom Brady, battling rival Peyton Manning for the 13th time in his career, threw for 223 yards and a touchdown while running for another. Manning was 31 of 44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns.
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley ran for a career-high 151 yards and a touchdown, but also had a costly fumble that could have put the game within striking distance for Manning.
Wes Welker had 13 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
3:42 4th quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 21 -- Willis McGahee fumbled on a rush at the Patriots' 14-yard line, forced by Rob Ninkovich, giving the Patriots the ball right back. The play could possibly seal the Patriots' win.
5:19 4th quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 21 -- Stevan Ridley broke off a 20-yard run. On the next play, he fumbled, giving the Broncos the ball back at a critical juncture in the game. It was forced by Von Miller.
6:43 4th quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 21 -- Peyton Manning threw a 5-yard touchdown to Brandon Stokley as the Broncos have now made it a two-score game.
The Broncos scoring drive was a quick 1:43, with Manning making two key throws to Willis McGahee and Eric Decker. Time is of the essence now for Denver. The Patriots can put this game out of reach with another touchdown or a lengthy drive.
8:10 4th quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 14 -- Going for it on fourth down didn't work out for the Patriots either. Wesley Woodyard strip-sacked Tom Brady for a 20-yard loss as the Broncos took over.
10:50 4th quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 14 -- Willis McGahee dropped a fourth down pass from Peyton Manning as the Patriots took over on their own 47-yard line.
13:00 4th quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 14 -- Two straight sacks on Tom Brady forces the Patriots to punt.
Derek Wolfe and Von Miller both got to Brady on the drive.
End of the 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 14 -- Peyton Manning is having a good game for himself, despite his fumble that led to another Patriots touchdown. He's 21 of 28 for 230 yards and two touchdowns now. Demaryius Thomas has six catches for 147 yards. Thomas has proven he can beat Devin McCourty and Sterling Moore consistently.
1:08 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 14 -- Peyton Manning must have gotten some smelling salt after that fumble. He orchestrated a 10-play, 90-yard drive, culminated with a 2-yard back shoulder touchdown pass that Eric Decker had to pull off the turf.
4:42 3d quarter: Patriots 31, Broncos 7 -- Stevan Ridley took a pitch left and sprinted into the end zone, diving after contact, for an 8-yard touchdown to capitalize on the Broncos' turnover.
The play was challenged and upheld.
4:51 3d quarter: Patriots 24, Broncos 7 -- Rob Ninkovich sacked Peyton Manning and forced a fumble on the play, with Vince Wilfork recovering as the Patriots took over at the Broncos' 14-yard line.
5:00 3d quarter: Patriots 24, Broncos 7 -- Tom Brady jumped over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown run as the Patriots marched 80 yards in 16 plays and 6:24 for the team's third TD.
Stevan Ridley went over 100 yards rushing on the drive. He has 20 carries for 106 yards.
11:24 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Broncos 7 -- The Patriots held the Broncos to four plays before forcing a punt. The Broncos called a run up the middle on 3rd-and-4.
On the drive, Devin McCourty was replaced at right cornerback by Alfonzo Dennard. Tracy White went to the locker room. We'll update you on this as soon as we get more information.
13:44 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Broncos 7 -- On a 3rd-and-7, Tom Brady must have heard foot steps because he started ducking when there was no one around him. And then, just a moment later, he finally did get hit, sacked for a 3-yard loss by Von Miller to give the Broncos the ball in the second half for the first time.
15:00 3d quarter: Patriots 17, Broncos 7 -- The third quarter is underway. Patriots receive the ball.
End of the first half: Patriots 17, Broncos 7 -- The Patriots offense is working at peak performance right now. Tom Brady is a cool 17 of 20 passing for 165 yards, rekindling an already sparkling relationship with Wes Welker. Welker has nine catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
The running game seems to be a priority for the Patriots, too. Stevan Ridley has 13 carries for 70 yards while Brandon Bolden has seven rushes for 25 yards. Shane Vereen jumped in a for a 1-yard carry, scoring on his only touch so far.
On the other side, Peyton Manning is 13 of 18 for 137 yards and a touchdown. Broncos running back Willis McGahee has nine carries for 28 yards.
The Broncos have had a tough time dealing with the Patriots' hurry-up offense, especially with Wes Welker running routes over the middle of the field. Meanwhile, with the run plays coming fast and the first downs coming often (eight), the Broncos are having trouble staying on the field. The Patriots have owned the time of possession 17:04 to 12:56.
0:02 2d quarter: Patriots 17, Broncos 7 -- Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 23-yard field goal to cap a 16-play drive that spanned 93 yards.
Running backs Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley did the majority of the damage, switching on and off as the Patriots rumbled along before the half.
5:13 2d quarter: Patriots 14, Broncos 7 -- In his first series of his career, Alfonzo Dennard made an impact. The rookie cornerback broke up a pass by Peyton Manning on 3rd-and-5 to force the Broncos to punt. Dennard replaced Sterling Moore in the nickel package of the series.
7:57 2d quarter: Patriots 14, Broncos 7 -- Shane Vereen pulled some cleanup duty for the Patriots, rushing in a 1-yard touchdown, after teammate Shane Ridley pulled the heavy workload on a 14-play, 80-yard drive.
Ridley rushed four times for 18 yards, getting two first downs, before Tom Brady connected on a 10-yard pass to Brandon Lloyd to get the Patriots down to the 1-yard line where Vereen scampered in untouched. Lloyd beat Champ Bailey one-on-one on the play.
14:05 2d quarter: Patriots 7, Broncos 7 -- A pass interference on Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty in the end zone on a throw to Denver's Eric Decker set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Joel Dreessen.
The touchdown throw capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive in 4:03.
Bill Belichick challenged a rushing play on the drive that resulted in a first down. That play was upheld so the Patriots were charged a timeout.
End of 1st quarter: Patriots 7, Broncos 0 -- Through one quarter of play, Tom Brady is 7 of 8 passing for 58 yards and a touchdown. Stevan Ridley has 33 yards rushing on five carries.
The Broncos are currently driving in the Patriots' red zone.
3:08 1st quarter: Patriots 7, Broncos 0 -- Tom Brady faked a handoff to Brandon Bolden, faked a throw to his right, and then threw back to Wes Welker on his left for an 8-yard touchdown.
The Patriots drove 84 yards on 12 plays in 4:44, working mostly out of the team's hurry-up offense, before the touchdown pass. It was Brady's 37th straight game with a TD pass.
7:52 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Broncos 0 -- On a third-and-5, Jerod Mayo sacked Peyton Manning for a 7-yard loss to give the Patriots the ball right back. It was Mayo's first sack of the season.
11:18 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Broncos 0 - The Patriots punted after a four-play drive after a quick first down throw to Rob Gronkowski. One rush by Danny Woodhead in the hurry-up offense for five yards was all the Patriots could manage in their quick attack.
12:22 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Broncos 0 -- Peyton Manning completed a deep pass over the middle of the field to Demaryius Thomas for 43 yards but Thomas was stripped by Sterling Moore who recovered it and returned it for 14 yards.
15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Broncos 0 -- The Broncos won the coin toss and elected to receive. Kickoff is imminent. Get your popcorn.
Pregame: The Patriots, Broncos and fans are going to have to deal with the rain, which is still coming down here in Foxborough. According to Weather.com, the rain will probably drop off by the 6 p.m. hour.
This will be the first game Patriots rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will be active. He essentially takes the place of Steve Gregory, who is out with a hip injury. Also active for today's game is running back Shane Vereen.
In pregame warmups, Tavon Wilson was in for Gregory at safety and Tracy White was in for Dont'a Hightower at linebacker. The team's starting offensive line was intact, including LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, and RT Sebastian Vollmer.
Stay here for in-game updates by each series.
Enjoy the game.