Portis, Sharpe lead way for Broncos

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- The Denver Broncos hope their bye week is
better than the one the New England Patriots just endured.

Question on the Patriots: Do they have issues on both offense and defense that might not be correctable this year?
On offense, their issues are correctable. It's a matter of emphasis -- they need to find a way to run the ball more effectively. Their timing seems to be off, and it appears the bye week didn't help. On defense, there's not much they can do. The scheme works, but players aren't making plays. I believe it's because they're getting older. So it looks like the Patriots will need to score lots of points to be competitive.

Question on the Broncos: Despite San Diego's slight lead, is the AFC West Denver's division to win?
No, I don't think so. The Chargers are a complete football team. They run the ball well, as does Denver. The QBs (Drew Brees and Brian Griese) are about even. But defensively I give the edge to San Diego, because they have good pass-rushers (Marcellus Wiley and Raylee Johnson) and Junior Seau brings the intangibles to turn a game around. Denver's linebackers are good, but not in Seau's category.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

The Broncos won 24-16 Sunday over the Super Bowl champs, who
went back to the basics during their extra practice time. What can
they try next?

"We have lost four games in a row,'' said a terse Patriots
coach Bill Belichick, whose postgame remarks lasted just two
minutes, 48 seconds. "It is hard to have confidence.''

Denver (6-2) should have plenty after winning its second
straight game, both on the road, with a balanced offense and an
aggressive defense.

Clinton Portis ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns, Ed McCaffrey caught eight passes for 115 yards, and Brian Griese
completed 18 of 23 passes for 229 yards and an 8-yard touchdown
pass to Shannon Sharpe.

The NFL's top-ranked run defense held the Patriots to 179 yards,
and the Broncos also sacked Tom Brady five times.

"We're in a good spot. Not only are we 6-2, but other than Tom Nalen, we're pretty injury-free,'' Griese said. "New England, if
you look at it, should have been hungrier than they were.''

Nalen, the four-time Pro Bowl center, is out for the season with
a knee injury, but the Broncos moved the ball well with second-year
pro Ben Hamilton replacing him.

The Patriots (3-4) must win seven of their remaining nine games
just to finish with 10 wins and a realistic playoff shot.

"You win by playing with heart, energy and enthusiasm,'' said
Brady, who was 15-for-29 for 130 yards. The last four games, it's
the other teams that have shown that.''

It was the third straight close game for the Broncos, following
a 24-22 loss to Miami and a 37-34 overtime win at Kansas City.

"After the pounding we've taken the last two weeks, we need the
time off,'' said Portis, a rookie who broke 100 yards for the third
time, gaining 102 and 103 yards the other two times.

Denver moved a half-game behind idle San Diego in the AFC West
and plays division rival Oakland (4-3) in two weeks.

"This is the perfect time for the break so, hopefully, the
little bruises recover and we can come back and continue the
streak,'' Portis said.

He helped the Patriots continue their streak with touchdown runs
of 1 and 4 yards as New England allowed an opponent to rush for
more than 100 yards for the fifth straight game.

"It's getting pretty repetitive every week and that's what is
frustrating,'' Patriots cornerback Ty Law said. "We did play
better football, but we still couldn't come up with a win.''

Sharpe caught two passes for 19 yards, but one put the Broncos
on top 14-0 on the first play of the second quarter.

One week earlier, he had 214 yards receiving, an NFL record for
tight ends. Griese threw a touchdown pass for the 23rd consecutive
game, the longest current streak in the NFL, but his team-record
streak of four games with at least 300 yards passing ended.

The Patriots haven't led at halftime in their last five games
and trailed 21-7 at intermission Sunday despite getting two
turnovers and giving up none.

They closed to 21-16 on Adam Vinatieri's 26-yard field goal in
the third quarter and Brady's 8-yard pass to Christian Fauria on
the first play of the fourth. The 2-point conversion attempt failed
on Brady's incomplete lob to David Patten.

When Jason Elam kicked a 19-yard field goal on Denver's next
possession, the Patriots trailed by eight.

The Broncos scored on three of their five first-half possessions
and turned the ball over on the other two, both to Law on an
interception and a fumble.

The second turnover, a fumble by Rod Smith, set up Antowain Smith's 3-yard scoring run midway through the second quarter,
cutting Denver's lead to 14-7. It was the Patriots' first running
touchdown in four games.

Denver wasted little time restoring its 14-point lead as Griese
led an eight-play, 70-yard drive, capped by Portis' second
touchdown, a 4-yard run 2:45 before halftime. Griese threw
completions of 15 and 14 yards to McCaffrey, and the Broncos gained
another 24 yards when Tebucky Jones was called for pass

Game notes
The teams played each other for the eighth straight season
with Denver going 6-2. ... Both teams began the season 3-0. Since
then, Denver is 3-2 and New England is 0-4. ... The Patriots scored
115 points in their first three games and 53 in their last four.
... The Patriots' 179 yards were their fewest since they gained 149
in the fourth game last season.

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