Rapid Reaction: Patriots 41, Broncos 23

DENVER -- A look at a game Denver fumbled away.

What it means: The Denver Broncos’ six game winning streak is over. The Broncos are now 8-6. However, Denver is still alone in first place in the AFC West because Oakland lost to Detroit in the final minute. Denver is still in great shape in the AFC West race.

Defense not elite: Denver’s defense is surely improved, but they were no match for Tom Brady. He made plays when he needed to make plays. Brady and tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski wore down this defense. The two tight ends combined for 13 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown. Of course, the Denver defense wasn’t helped by three fumbles in Denver territory.

Not Tebow’s fault: There will be a lot of talk that TebowMania has been solved. Don’t buy it. He is improving and he wasn’t the reason for this loss. His fumble didn’t help, but this was a team loss.

Game changed in the second quarter: Denver had the Patriots where it wanted them after the first quarter. The Broncos had a 13-7 lead and had the ball for 10:45 of the first. Then, after Denver made it 16-7 early in the second, New England exploded for 20 unanswered points in the quarter and Denver hardly touched the ball. The Broncos couldn’t overcome the second quarter.

Huge first quarter on the ground: Denver had 167 yards on the ground in the first quarter. But because of New England’s points explosion, it had to throw the ball more. Denver, the No. 1 ground team in the NFL, finished the game with 252 yards on the ground.

What’s next: Denver travels to Buffalo on Saturday where the long-term forecast calls for weather to be in the 30s and a mostly sunny day.