When it comes time to make the big play, Denver is fortunate enough to be loaded with veteran talent.
Against New England however, it was the rookie talent of Ashley Lelie that sealed today's 24-16 victory, as the twenty-two year old pulled down a 40-yard Brian Griese pass at the two minute warning, allowing the Broncos offense to run out the clock, and improve their record to 6-2, heading into the bye week.
The Broncos opened up strong against the reigning Super Bowl Champions, as Clinton Portis capped a 7-play, 48-yard drive with his first rushing touchdown of the afternoon, giving Denver a quick 7-0 lead.
That lead doubled moments into the second quarter as Griese connected with tight end Shannon Sharpe, fresh off his record setting performance last week against Kansas City, for an 8-yard touchdown strike.
The score elevated Sharpe into first place, ahead of teammates Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, as the franchise leader in touchdown receptions.
New England, who had dropped three consecutive games prior to their bye week, finally found the scoreboard after capitalizing on a Rod Smith fumble, giving them possession on Denver's 38-yard line.
Six plays later Antwain Smith rumbled in from three-yards out to cut the Broncos lead 14-7, with 7:16 remaining in the second quarter.
Denver regained momentum on the subsequent possession as Griese engineered a brilliant 70-yard drive, capping it off with Portis' second score of the afternoon, this one from four-yard out, and the Broncos held a commanding 21-7 halftime lead.
Portis finished the game with 26 carries for 111-yards, his third 100+ yard performance of the season.
"We're in a good spot. Not only are we 6-2, but other than Tom Nalen, we're pretty injury free," said Griese, who finished with 18 of 23 passes for 229 yards, including one touchdown and one interception.
The twenty-one point first half total, combined with last week's second half and overtime totals, gives Denver 52 points in just over sixty-minutes of football, their best offensive performance in the past two years.
The second half, unfortunately, would not be as productive.
The Broncos managed only one 19-yard Jason Elam field goal during the final two quarters.
Short kickoffs, a missed field goal and poor special teams play were all overshadowed by the fact that Denver's defense made the stops they needed to, sacking Patriot quarterback Tom Brady five times.
The league's top ranked run defense held New England to a mere 69-yards on the ground, and a team total of only 179-yards.
"You win by playing with heart, energy and enthusiasm," said Brady. "The last four games, it's the other teams that have shown that."
The (6-2) Broncos head into the bye week trailing first place San Diego by one-half game, and sit ahead of (4-3) Oakland, who lost earlier in the day to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders have now dropped three consecutive games.
Broncos knock off New England 24-16
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