Patriots

INTERCONFERENCE: Siemian, Broncos crush Elliott, Cowboys, 42-17

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INTERCONFERENCE: Siemian, Broncos crush Elliott, Cowboys, 42-17

DENVER - Trevor Siemian tied a career high with four touchdown passes and the Denver Broncos held Ezekiel Elliott to the worst game of his career - 8 yards on nine carries - in a 42-17 blowout of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in a game that included an hour-long lightning delay.

Aqib Talib's 103-yard interception return for a touchdown with 53 seconds left was the final indignity for the Cowboys (1-1), who watched Von Miller end a career-long five-game sackless streak by dumping Dak Prescott twice.

Elliott, who's playing while his appeal of a six-game suspension for domestic violence works its way through the courts, came into the game averaging 108 yards rushing per game and more than 5 yards a carry in his career.

The star in the backfield on this day was C.J. Anderson, who rushed for 118 yards and a score and also caught a TD pass for the Broncos, whose only big blemish in their fifth straight 2-0 start was the left leg injury to tackle Garett Bolles, their No. 1 draft pick who got hurt on the opening drive of the second half.

Two plays after Bolles was carted off, Siemian found Virgil Green for a 2-yard TD. Chris Harris Jr.'s interception set up Anderson's 22-yard touchdown run that made it 35-10.

The Cowboys pulled to 35-17 on Jason Witten's 28-yard catch that was set up by rookie Jourdan Lewis' interception when the receiver he was covering slipped.

The Cowboys looked nothing like the team that dominated the Giants in their opener. They were seeking their first win in Denver since 1992 and instead lost to the Broncos for the sixth straight time.

Siemian threw scoring strikes of 10 and 6 yards to Emmanuel Sanders as the Broncos built a 21-10 halftime lead.

The Cowboys were lucky to be that close after a first half in which they managed just five first downs, converted one third down and were outgained 246 yards to 97.

The only touchdown for Dallas came on a 3-yard drive after DeMarcus Lawrence's strip sack of Siemian after beating right tackle Menelik Watson, who also had a tough night in Denver's opening win against the Chargers.

Dez Bryant beat Talib for the score two plays after Maliek Collins scooped up the loose ball after Lawrence's first of two sacks.

Lawrence added a second sack before halftime, but was whistled for illegally leaping on a field goal on the next snap, and Denver capitalized on the 15-yard personal foul as Siemian found Anderson open in the flat for a 16-yard score that made it 14-7.

After Sanders' second score, the Broncos boldly called a timeout with 1:33 left and Dallas, which had no timeouts remaining, capitalized on it when Dan Bailey tied his career-long field goal with a 56-yarder to pull the Cowboys to 21-10 with 2 seconds left before halftime.

The Cowboys began the day without their top cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, who broke his left hand last week, and they lost rookie Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) and Nolan Carroll (concussion) in the first half.

Denver scored on its first drive when Siemian found Sanders for a 10-yard strike , and the Broncos were driving for another score but McManus pushed a 49-yarder wide right, his second miss in three attempts since signing his contract extension Monday.

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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