Patriots hand Broncos 5th straight defeat

Jan 1 2017 Denver CO USA Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller and outside linebacker Shane Ray celebrate after a play in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit Isaiah

Jan 1 2017 Denver CO USA Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller and outside linebacker Shane Ray celebrate after a play in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit Isaiah

Three thoughts from the Patriots' 41-16 win over the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.

It's hard to understand Broncos coach Vance Joseph's decision to stick with rookie kick returner Isaiah McKenzie, who has fumbled five times this season after Sunday night.

Patriots running back Dion Lewis then took the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots exploited a number of matchup head-scratchers, with Broncos linebackers struggling to keep up with slot receivers and tight ends. Another free first down gifted New England seven more points.

It was the special teams that let the Broncos down Sunday.

The dumpster fire of the special teams masked a decent showing from an offense that had been anything but the previous four weeks. They have been exploited despite great strength against the run and in the secondary.

Denver responded with a scoring drive of its own, as Brandon McManus connected from 39 yards out to make the score 7-3. Their final touchdown off Denver's fourth special-teams mistake sealed it, and the fans that booed at halftime fled for the exits with almost 10 minutes left.

Brock Osweiler, making a second straight start since replacing Trevor Siemian, was 18 of 33 for 221 yards, including a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas.

Two plays after the muffed punt, Burkhead got a step on safety Darian Stewart on a crossing pattern and Brady hit him in stride for a 14-yard touchdown pass. New England's tight ends - Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen - accounted for 123 of those yards, plus a touchdown.

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