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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Von Miller recovered a fumble, dodged Tom Brady's half-hearted attempt at a tackle and ran 60 yards for a touchdown as the Denver Broncos forced fumbles on New England's first three possessions on their way to a 24-0 halftime lead over the Patriots on Sunday night.
The first half of the much-heralded matchup between Brady and Peyton Manning in frigid Foxborough was dominated by the Broncos defense. And Miller was at the center of the two biggest plays early on, adding a strip sack of Brady on the Patriots' next possession that set up Knowshon Moreno's 2-yard TD run.
When New England (7-3) got the ball back, it held onto it for just two plays before LeGarrette Blount had the ball knocked loose by safety Duke Ihenacho. Linebacker Danny Trevathan fell on it and was ruled down by contact, negating a return that would have had the Broncos at the Patriots 11.
Instead, Denver (9-1) settled for Matt Prater's 27-yard field goal that made it 17-0. The Broncos added another touchdown when Manning hit Jacob Tamme from 10 yards out for the only score of the second quarter.
On a night with a kickoff temperature of 20 degrees and a wind chill of 6, Manning completed eight passes for 61 yards in the first half while Moreno ran 18 times for 107 yards. Brady was 10 of 17 for 81 yards as the Patriots struggled to hold onto the ball, fumbling six times in all and losing three of them.
New England had lost five fumbles all season coming into the game and was sixth in the NFL in net turnovers. But Stevan Ridley, who coughed it up on the opening drive, has fumbled in three consecutive games, losing two.
Denver had a turnover of its own after forcing New England to punt right before the half. Trindon Holliday let the ball bounce off his leg, giving the Patriots the ball at the Broncos 42 with 5 seconds left.
Brady's Hail Mary was far short of the end zone and incomplete.
The temperature made it difficult on the players on each side and also could have been the reason that first the play clocks and then the game clocks went out, forcing the referees to keep the official time on the field. The clocks came back early in the second quarter.
Brady and Manning have six regular-season MVP awards between them and three more in the Super Bowl, where they've combined to win four NFL championships. It's the 14th time they've met, with Brady holding a 9-4 edge.
This time, though, Manning has former Patriots receiver Wes Welker on his side. Brady's longtime favorite target went to Denver as a free agent and he entered the game as the Broncos' leading receiver with 61 catches.
Welker had one catch for 5 yards in the first half.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org