Brady tops Manning, Patriots beat Broncos 31-21


Brady tops Manning, Patriots beat Broncos 31-21

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The familiar showdown had a new twist - Peyton Manning in a Denver Broncos uniform. It ended as it usually does with Tom Brady winning the matchup of marquee quarterbacks.

But not before Manning nearly pulled off another fourth-quarter comeback in a career filled with them.

In their 13th meeting, and first since Manning left the Indianapolis Colts, Brady directed four scoring marches of at least 80 yards and the Patriots won 31-21 on Sunday. He's 9-4 in his career against Manning.

``Nobody I'd rather have than Tom Brady,'' New England coach Bill Belichick said, ``but Manning's a great player.''

Manning had led his teams back in the fourth quarter to 36 comeback wins. And the Broncos (2-3) rallied from a 31-7 deficit with about five minutes left in the third quarter on Manning's scoring passes of 2 yards to Eric Decker and 5 yards to Brandon Stokley.

The Patriots (3-2) lost the ball on Stevan Ridley's fumble on their next possession and Manning completed a 28-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas to the Patriots 14-yard line. But two plays later, Denver's comeback hopes faded when Willis McGahee fumbled and Jermaine Cunningham recovered at the New England 11 with 3:42 remaining.

``We can build on that'' ability to whittle a big deficit, Manning said. ``I do think that will help us win a game at some point.''

Brady downplayed his meeting with Manning.

``It's Patriots-Broncos,'' he said. ``It was a great team win. We got some turnovers from our defense and I thought offensively capitalized at times. There were a few lulls in there, which I wish we had executed a little bit better, but for the most part it's a good day.''

Brady completed 23 of 31 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown and ran for another, operating much of the game out of a no-huddle offense.

``It's not new,'' Denver coach John Fox said. ``They've been doing this for a long, long time. They just have a good group of guys together doing it. ... Our guy (Manning) did an outstanding job today as well.''

Manning was 31 of 44 for 345 yards and three touchdowns but lost a fumble on a third-quarter sack.

That led to Ridley's 8-yard run that put the Patriots ahead 31-7. Ridley led the Patriots with a career-high 151 yards rushing. They gained 251 yards on the ground, one week after rushing for 247 in a 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills.

``It's awesome,'' Ridley said. ``It takes a lot of pressure off Brady. And that's our leader.''

The Patriots set a franchise record with 35 first downs as they kept their offense rolling one week after gaining 580 against the Bills. The Broncos sputtered after beating the Oakland Raiders 37-6. Their previous two losses were by just six points to the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans.

``I know they're been great teams we've lost to, which still doesn't make it any easier,'' Manning said. ``We are working on things and building things. It doesn't happen right away.''

Brady and Manning first faced each other in the third game of the 2001 season. The Patriots won 44-13 in Brady's first career start.

There were plenty of close games in subsequent regular-season matchups with six of the previous seven decided by seven points or less.

But, Manning said, ``this is not a team you want to fall behind to.''

The Patriots led 17-7 at halftime and 31-7 after three quarters. Brady and his runners kept slicing through the Denver defense with a balanced attack. They went ahead to stay, 14-7, midway through the second quarter on a 14-play drive (seven pass plays and seven runs) capped by Shane Vereen's 1-yard run.

Ridley had his third 100-yard rushing game of his career, all this season. Wes Welker, the NFL's leading receiver last year with 122 catches, had 13 for 104 yards.

``There were a few times where I didn't get open,'' he said, ``but for the most part I feel like I got open a lot and was able to make some plays.''

The Broncos wasted an excellent opportunity on their first series. Manning hit Thomas with a 43-yard completion to the Patriots 10-yard line, but Sterling Moore stripped the ball and recovered the fumble. The Patriots went four-and-out on the ensuing possession then the Patriots scored on their next three possessions - 84 yards to Brady's 8-yard pass to Welker, 80 yards to Vereen's touchdown and 93 yards to Stephen Gostkowski's 23-yard field goal.

Denver did tie the game 7-7 on Manning's 1-yard pass to Joel Dreessen but didn't reach the end zone again until Manning hit Decker to end a 90-yard march, cutting the lead to 31-14 with 1:08 left in the third.

But Manning couldn't bring the Broncos all the way back.

``A week ago, we put it all together,'' Fox said. ``I would have expected us to put it all together more this week.''

But Brady and his offense is a lot tougher than the Raiders.

``You have to be balanced and I think we were doing a very good job when we're calling the runs,'' Brady said.

Notes: McGahee rushed for just 51 yards on 14 carries after gaining more than 100 in two of his previous three games. ... The Patriots rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1978. ... New England outgained Denver 444 yards to 402.


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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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