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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The reviews came quickly and unanimously.
"Brady's Better!" the crowd chanted midway through the fourth quarter.
"I stunk," Peyton Manning said minutes after struggling through the 16th meeting between two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
All that was true Sunday in the meeting between the AFC's two top teams.
Tom Brady outplayed Manning and the New England Patriots won 43-21 for their fifth straight victory, ending the Denver Broncos' winning streak at four.
The lopsided loss by the favored Broncos was a surprise. Another Brady victory over Manning in Foxborough wasn't.
Manning is 0-4 at New England over the past five seasons. The Patriots have won their past 14 home games, the longest current streak in the NFL, and 34 in a row over AFC teams.
"The crowd didn't play," Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "It is 11-on-11 and their 11 played better."
Make that 22.
The Patriots (7-2) were better on offense, especially when converting on third and fourth downs. And they were better on defense, holding the Broncos (6-2) to their second lowest points total of the season.
"We knew if we executed well how the game would turn out, so we weren't surprised," New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "It wasn't about Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. It was about making sure we knew what we're doing."
Brady threw for 333 yards, four touchdowns and his first interception in five games. Manning piled up 438 yards passing, most after the Broncos trailed 27-7 at halftime, with two touchdown passes and two interceptions.
"The quarterback stinks, usually you're not going to win many games," Manning said. "I don't make any excuses."
Brady is 11-5 against Manning with one of those losses coming last season in the AFC title game.
"He has always set a real high bar for how to play and I have tried to do the same through my efforts with my team," Brady said about Manning. "The only thing I really care about is the respect from my team, going out there and trying to earn it. "
Some more highlights of the Patriots' victory:
THE OTHER MATCHUP: Just as Brady outplayed Manning, New England's Rob Gronkowski beat Denver's Julius Thomas in a matchup of two of the NFL's best tight ends. Gronkowski had nine catches for 105 yards and a 1-yard touchdown, while Thomas finished with two receptions for 33 yards, with an 18-yard score.
Gronkowski made a spectacular one-handed grab early in the fourth quarter and was tackled at the 1.
"Incredible," Brady said. "That was one of the best catches I've ever seen."
Thomas' touchdown cut the lead to 27-14 early in the third quarter before the Patriots scored 10 points in a 17-second span on Stephen Gostkowski's 45-yard field goal and Brady's 10-yard scoring pass to Brandon LaFell.
EDELMAN DOES IT ALL: Julian Edelman scored on a 5-yard pass from Brady, returned a punt 84 yards for another touchdown and almost got a third in the final minute of the third quarter. But the on-field ruling that he had scored on a 5-yard pass was overturned when replay showed the ball hit the ground before he had possession. Brady threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Shane Vereen two plays later for a 27-7 lead.
"Julian did what Julian does," special teams captain Matthew Slater said.
It was the fourth punt return for a touchdown of Edelman's career, breaking a tie for the team record with Troy Brown and Irving Fryar.
DENVER'S DEFENSE: Denver's improved defense this season hardly looked like it. Von Miller began the day tied for second in the NFL with nine sacks, but his six-game streak with at least one ended. DeMarcus Ware was the only Bronco to sack Brady, who kept getting rid of the ball quickly.
"Brady, man, on third and long he killed us," Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "They just did a lot of hurry-up (offense) and our communication wasn't like it usually is."
BRADY'S MILESTONES: Brady spent the day passing one great quarterback after another. He moved into fifth place past current Denver general manager John Elway with 51,541 yards passing and moved ahead of Dan Marino with 22 games with at least four touchdown passes. He also tied Brett Favre with 62 games with 300 or more yards passing and got his 155th win in his 200th start, the most victories by a quarterback in that many starts.
COMING UP: The Patriots have a bye before visiting Indianapolis in a Sunday night game. They're 1-2 in the games after the bye in the past three seasons. The Broncos face a soft landing after the loss to New England when they visit the Oakland Raiders (0-8) in the second of three straight road games.
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