Punting from inside New England territory, Britton Colquitt placed one perfectly towards the left end zone pylon, and fullback Chris Gronkowski downed the ball on the Patriots 2-yard line.
With 98 yards of field to work with, Tom Brady and the offense took over.
A pair of completions to Wes Welker of 7 and 6 yards gave the Patriots some breathing room. Two plays later, on third-and-11, Brady hit Danny Woodhead out of the backfield for a 25-yard pickup.
Soon after Woodhead’s big gain, running back Brandon Bolden picked up a 24-yarder on the ground, moving the Patriots down to the 31-yard line at the two-minute warning.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski gave New England its next first down, moving the offense into the red zone.
The next five plays were all runs, and the Denver defense came up big with a pair of stops near the goal line.
On third-and-goal from the 1-yard line with the second-quarter clock inside 20 seconds, linebacker Von Miller hit running back Brandon Bolden in the backfield for a 4-yard loss, forcing New England to settle for a field goal.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski converted on the short field goal. Two seconds remained on the game clock, and the Broncos kneeled the ball to end the half.
At the break, the Patriots lead the Broncos 17-7.
Brady is 17-of-20 passing for 165 yards and a touchdown. Peyton Manning is 13-of-18 for 137 yards and a touchdown. New England has 111 yards rushing after two quarters, with Ridley leading the way with 70 yards on the ground.