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(Saturday, January 14th)
Final Score: New England 45, Denver 10
Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - Two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady shredded Denver's defense in a record-tying performance, while Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow never got on track against a relentless New England defense.
The magical run for the former Heisman Trophy winner is over for this season, but Brady is one win away from pushing the Patriots to the Super Bowl yet again.
Brady tied an NFL playoff record by throwing six touchdown passes in New England's 45-10 dismantling of Tebow and the Broncos in an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday at a frigid Gillette Stadium.
The top-seeded Patriots, who will host either Baltimore or Houston in next Sunday's AFC Championship Game, set a franchise record for most points in a playoff game.
Brady connected on 26-of-34 throws for 363 yards and was picked off once, equaling the TD mark held by Daryle Lamonica of the Oakland Raiders in a 1969 game against Houston and San Francisco's Steve Young in the Super Bowl against San Diego following the 1994 season.
The Patriots showed off their versatility. Tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was used at times as a running back, gained 61 yards on five carries. Brady even gave a wry smile after a 48-yard punt on third down with 2:56 remaining in the game.
Rob Gronkowski caught 10 passes for 145 yards and three scores for the Patriots, who got their first playoff win since beating San Diego in the AFC title contest following the 2007 season. This was their ninth straight win.
"You lose a few playoff games and it's a very bitter way to end the season," Brady said. "It sits in your mind for quite a long time. For us to come out and play the way we did, to have a very solid performance in the most important game of the year is very gratifying."
Tebow ended 9-of-26 for 136 yards and was sacked five times. He rushed for only 13 yards.
Tebow and Demaryius Thomas connected for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime, giving the Broncos a 29-23 victory over the Steelers in last weekend's wildcard contest.
But for the second time in less than a month, Brady and the Patriots put up big offensive numbers in beating the Broncos, coupled with a 41-23 victory in Denver on December 18.
"There's a lot of things that we're proud of, but obviously it's hard to see them all right now though," Tebow said.
Right from the start, Brady was carving up the Denver defense, leading the Patriots on a five-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in seven points. The big play was a 43-yard run from Hernandez down the left sideline. On the next play, Brady rocketed a pass over the middle to Wes Welker, who powered to the end zone.
It was Brady's 18th consecutive postseason game with a TD pass, the second- longest streak all-time, behind Brett Favre (20).
On Denver's opening possession, Tebow moved the Broncos to the New England 37, but he had difficulty with the rush early. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich stripped Tebow from behind and his ex-Florida teammate, Brandon Spikes, recovered for the Pats at their 41.
Brady took immediate advantage of the turnover, taking six plays to advance the Patriots to the Denver 10. Gronkowski made a mystifying grab on the following play by first escaping the coverage of cornerback Andre Goodman to the rear left corner of the end zone. It seemed Brady's pass led the second- year tight end too far, but Gronkowski used his right hand to tip the ball to himself and then sandwiched the ball between his hands as he landed on his stomach in the end zone. Video review was used to confirm the scoring play that made it 14-0 with 6:42 left in the opening quarter.
"That catch that Gronk made in the corner was one of the best catches I've ever seen," Brady said. "When you're making plays like that, it's really not about the defense, it's about making spectacular plays."
Shortly after Brady was picked off by Quinton Carter, Willis McGahee scored on a five-yard run up the middle on the first play of the second quarter.
But after each team punted, the Patriots widened the gap to 21-7 when on 3rd- and-3, Brady found Gronkowski over the middle for a 12-yard TD.
Two plays after a Denver punt, Deion Branch got loose down the left sideline for a 61-yard TD, a play made possible by the veteran wide receiver pushing off Goodman, although there was no interference call.
"I think we reached a point there where we didn't have enough people to match up on their multiple wideout stuff," Broncos coach John Fox said. "That limited us to some point in playing man coverage. They were definitely the better team tonight."
That score came with 1:57 left in the half, and after a three-and-out for Denver, Brady had 69 seconds to work...an eternity for the reigning NFL MVP. Completions to Welker, Hernandez and Julian Edelman moved the ball to the Denver 19. On the next play, Gronkowski reeled in Brady's pass over the middle and darted to the end zone with five seconds left in the half.
Less than four minutes into the third, the Patriots upped their lead to 42-7 when Hernandez caught a 17-yard TD pass over the middle.
Brady seemed on his way to breaking the single-game scoring pass record on New England's next possession, but Stevan Ridley fumbled the ball away after making a reception at the Denver 19.
Matt Prater kicked a 41-yard field goal late in the third for the Broncos, and Brady had another shot for history early in the fourth. Right after Gronkowski's amazing tip-toe catch down right sideline on first play of the last quarter, New England was set up at the four, but the Pats ran the ball three times before Stephen Gostkowski kicked a field goal.
New England's tenacious 'D' was all over Tebow, who pumped his fist in frustration after scrambling away on 4th-and-goal, only to have his pass deflected away midway through the fourth.
"I think we knew going into this game that we had a good idea of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to play," Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "We prepared well and were very confident going into today's game. I understand that we can play this game how we want to play this game. Everything worked out for us. Hopefully it won't stop now."
Brady (4,770) passed Dan Marino (4,510) for the fifth-most postseason passing yards in NFL history. Brady also has 36 playoff TD passes, which is third-most all-time, behind Joe Montana (45) and Favre (44)...Patriots coach Bill Belichick got his 16th playoff win, tying Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll for fourth-most all-time. Tom Landry (20), Don Shula (19) and Joe Gibbs (17) are ahead of Belichick...The last Broncos postseason playoff road win came January 11, 1998 at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game...This was Denver's first divisional playoff game in exactly six years - a 27-13 loss to the Patriots...McGahee gained 76 yards on 17 carries...New England held a 509-252 advantage in total yardage.
01/15 01:53:10 ET
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