DENVER -- The Broncos are in jeopardy of not making the playoffs to defend their Super Bowl 50 championship after a 16-3 loss Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Broncos' five-year hold on the AFC West ended with the loss and a win by the Oakland Raiders. And with two games to play, the Broncos (8-6) are ninth in the AFC playoff race.
The defense again did its job, holding the Patriots to just one touchdown. Quarterback Tom Brady’s first completion didn’t come until the second quarter.
The game started with the Patriots going three-and-out, but a muffed punt by Jordan Norwood gave the Patriots good field position to set up a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Later in the first quarter, the Broncos tied it up with a 33-yard field goal from Brandon McManis. That would be the only score of the game for the Broncos and prevented them from getting shut out for the first time in 24 years -- and the first time ever at home.
The Broncos were in the red zone to start the second quarter looking to take the lead, but an interception by quarterback Trevor Siemian was returned near midfield.
The interception proved costly as Brady made up for the lack of completions in the first quarter and drove the Patriots 46 yards for a 1-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount to make it 10-3.
The Broncos got the ball back at their 20 with 32 seconds left and three timeouts but only ran a running play to run out the clock.
Coach Gary Kubiak later defended the decision, saying field position and the Patriots having timeouts played a factor in the decision.
The Broncos went three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, setting the tone for most of the rest of the game.
Despite the offense not performing, the defense was able to hold Brady and the Patriots to just two field goals to make it 16-3.
The Broncos had five consecutive three-and-outs to start the second half, not getting their first first down of the second half until there was less than eight minutes remaining in the game.
After the loss, the playoff picture for the Broncos is looking bleak.
The Kansas City Chiefs (10-4), Miami Dolphins (9-5), Baltimore Ravens (8-6) and Tennessee Titans (8-6) are ahead of the Broncos for one of the two wild card berths.
The Broncos play Sunday at Kansas City before finishing at home on New Year's Day against the Oakland Raiders (11-3).