Quarterback Tom Brady led four scoring drives — two after turnovers — and New England’s defense kept the Denver Broncos out of the end zone Sunday in a 16-3 victory that clinched the Patriots’ eighth straight AFC East title and the playoff berth that goes with it.
Stephen Gostkowski finished three of those drives with field goals, the last a 21-yarder with 8:16 remaining. LeGarrette Blount capped the other with a 1-yard touchdown run in a game that was largely a defensive struggle.
Brady, who misfired on his first six passes, finished 16 of 32 for 188 yards and it was enough for New England (12-2) to retain its hold on the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed with two games left in the regular season. It was a rare win in Denver for Brady, who improved to 3-7 lifetime in the Mile High City.
New England set an NFL record with the eighth consecutive division title.
“It was a great team win,” said Brady. “Defense was playing so great all day.
“Offensively we made some plays, just didn’t make enough to score more points than we have but it ended up being enough. It could certainly have been better today, but happy we won.”
Head coach Bill Belichick described the division victory as a “huge accomplishment” but observed that the business part of the season was still ahead.
The mistake-prone Broncos (8-6) lost their hold on the sixth and final wild-card berth. They need help and in all likelihood wins in their final two games, against AFC West rivals Kansas City and Oakland, to reclaim a post-season berth and the chance to defend last season’s Super Bowl title.
Trevor Siemian finished 25 of 40 for 282 yards, hamstrung by an ineffective rushing attack and failing to get his offense untracked against the Patriots. He also had a costly interception.
The Patriots led 10-3 at halftime, with both scores coming after Denver turnovers.
(Editing by Andrew Both)