Injuries have Patriots, Broncos headed in opposite directions
After pinning Denver deep in its own territory early in the quarter, New England took possession at its 44 following a punt and promptly drove 56 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
A minute later, Denver thought it got a timely turnover when Branch appeared to fumble on a punt return. New England challenged the ruling, and it was reversed because the ground caused the fumble.
The Patriots couldn't get a first down, however, and punted, and O'Neal ran it back for a touchdown and a 24-20 lead with 3:13 left in the period.
It was the first punt return for a touchdown allowed by New England since Sept. 5, 1993.
The Broncos may have lost placekicker Jason Elam with a strained groin.
Elam apparently hurt himself while missing a 44-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, though he later made a 43-yarder.
After a first quarter that ended in a 7-7 tie, the teams exchanged field goals early in the second quarter.
Following a short punt by New England, Kanell completed a 13-yard pass to Rod Smith, and Elam kicked a 43-yard field goal.
Kanell, Denver's third-string quarterback, was making his second straight start because of injuries to Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein.
Denver responded with a 14-play, 72-yard touchdown drive. The drive included Kanell's 18-yard pass to Chris Cole on third-and-10 and concluded on Kanell's pass to Anderson in the right flat. Punter Micah Knorr kicked the extra point in Elam's absence.
New England got a quick score in the waning seconds. Bethel Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the Denver 36, and Vinatieri kicked a 46-yard field goal with one second remaining.
Denver safety Kenoy Kennedy had a fumble recovery and an interception barely five minutes in, helping Denver take a 7-0 lead.
On New England's second play from scrimmage, Brady fumbled the snap and Kennedy recovered at the Patriots 28. Four plays later, Clinton Portis ran 15 yards up the middle for a touchdown with 10:51 left.
A minute later, Brady's long pass to Givens was tipped by the receiver and Kennedy intercepted at the Denver 35.
Kanell completed a 26-yard pass to Rod Smith as Denver moved to the New England 26, but Elam missed his 44-yard try.
On the next play, Brady connected with Branch, who had beaten cornerback Kelly Herndon deep.
The Patriots (6-2) entered with a four-game winning streak and had won six of their last seven. The Broncos (5-3) had lost two in a row, and three of their last four.
The teams met for the ninth straight season -- the longest active streak among non-division foes.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Steelers' Bell, Blount set to face pot charges
- Backup Manziel says he needs to earn way
- Doctors: Jim Kelly has no evidence of cancer
- Texans' Clowney exits practice after collision