By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After some time changes and then a week change, the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos finally got on the field for their head-to-head at Gillette Stadium.
And it was the Patriots' ugliest game to date for the first three quarters, too, with New England held to three points through three quarters before a late-game comeback came up just short in a 18-12 defeat.
With Cam Newton back under center after the 31-year-old missed the team's Oct. 5 meeting with the Chiefs after contracting COVID-19, the Patriots struggled to find their rhythm early, and finished with just under 130 yards of first-half offense. New England's run game was especially quiet, with just 37 yards on the ground on 13 carries (2.8 yards per carry).
A 41-yard make from Nick Folk in the second quarter was all the Patriots had to show for their quiet start, too.
The Broncos, meanwhile, piled up 12 points by halftime, all by way of Brandon McManus and his four field goals.
And McManus added another two makes in the third quarter, coupled with a fumble from Ryan Izzo and a Newton interception, and the Patriots found themselves in an 18-3 hole through 45 minutes.
It was enough to get you thinking that this one was just about over.
But Newton led a 65-yard drive to the endzone — Newton accounted for 64 of the 65 yards the Patriots accumulated on that drive — and though the Patriots failed to convert the two-point conversion to make it a one-possession game, the Patriots found life.
It came from J.C. Jackson, too, as No. 27 picked off the Broncos' Drew Lock with 5:15 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots turned that gift into a field goal after a Newton rush pushed Folk into more manageable range for a 38-yarder.
J.C. Jackson comes through with the interception!????: @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/u9XaZDbl6X
Fortunately for the Patriots' hopes, the second-year Lock wasn't done gifting the Patriots either, as he threw another interception on his very next passing attempt, this time to the Patriots' Jonathan Jones.
Getting the ball back and down by six, the Patriots converted on a 4th down with a quarterback sneak, and kept themselves alive and pushing forward with a pair of trick-play passes from Julian Edelman.
But on a 4th-and-10 with 1:03 remaining, the Patriots came up just short on both this drive and their comeback attempt.
With the Broncos sending their safeties up the gut and toward No. 1, Newton threw the ball to the right, but was unable to hook up with N'Keal Harry for the game-extending grab.
In what was his first game since Sept. 27, Newton finished with 157 yards on 17-for-25 passing, and added 76 yards and a score on 10 carries.
The loss, the Patriots' second straight, dropped the team to 2-3 on the year. It's the first time they've been under .500 in October since 2002.
The Patriots will host Jimmy G and the 49ers at Gillette Stadium next week.