Terry Allen scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, rookie Kevin Faulk scored the first touchdown of his career and New England rushed for 133 yards as the Patriots held on for a 24-23 win over Denver Sunday.
In an all-too-familiar scene, the Patriots (5-2) went down to the wire and had a game decided by three points or less for the sixth time in seven games. However, Jason Elam's 59-yard field goal attempt with less than two minutes remaining sailed wide and New England snapped a two-game losing streak.
"You hate to say it's a must-win game this early in the season, but this game was very important to us," said quarterback Drew Bledsoe. "After losing two close and emotional games the last couple weeks, it was a very big victory for us."
Making the victory even sweeter for the Patriots was the fashion in which they won the game. An often-criticized offensive line opened holes for Allen throughout the game, paving the way for 106 yards and two touchdowns for the 10th-year player.
"It feels good as a lineman to run the ball," said guard Max Lane. "We came in the game and we knew we had the opportunity because of the stunting and blitzing that their defense does."
It was the first time Allen has reached the century mark since November of 1997 when he did so for the Washington Redskins. It was also the first time a New England running back has had two touchdowns in one game since Curtis Martin scored three times against Miami in 1996.
To compliment Allen in the backfield, Faulk gained 24 yards on five carries, including a 15-yarder in the first quarter that went for the first touchdown of his career. Faulk took a handoff from Bledsoe, went around the right side of the line and ran untouched into the endzone.
The ground game made for a lighter load on Bledsoe's back. Bledsoe had to attempt just 22 passes and had just 214 yards in the air. In all, New England had 28 running plays and 26 passing plays, which is a balance they'd like to have every game.
"We knew going into the week that we wanted to balance the offense," said fullback Tony Carter, who ran once for six yards and caught two passes for 31 yards. "We came out and had success running the ball early, and I think that was the difference. We executed and [offensive coordinator] Ernie [Zampese] felt comfortable calling the [running] plays."
Though Bledsoe didn't have a touchdown pass, he did hit Terry Glenn for a 67-yard pass over the middle that went to the one-yard line. The play set up Allen's first score, which came with just 26 seconds left in the first half.
While the offense had a solid game, the defense was forced to patch themselves together from the second quarter on. Already thin at linebacker because of injuries to Tedy Bruschi, Bernard Russ and Ted Johnson, New England lost Marty Moore to a sprained left knee in the second quarter. His replacement, Vernon Crawford, was hurt in the third quarter, leaving Andy Katzenmoyer and Chris Slade as the only healthy linebackers on the team.
This forced safety Larry Whigham to play linebacker, while Crawford came back and played on his injured knee for part of the fourth quarter.
"Guys hung in and jumped in to unfamiliar spots and we got through the game somehow," said Head Coach Pete Carroll. "There were a lot of unusual situations that occurred today and I'm really proud we found a way to win this game.