FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady threw for a record-tying six touchdown passes, five in the first half and three to Rob Gronkowski, and the New England Patriots cruised to a 45-10 victory over Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in their second-round NFL playoff game Saturday night.
Brady completed 26 of 34 passes for 363 yards, and his six touchdowns matched the NFL playoff record set by Daryle Lamonica in 1969 and matched by Steve Young in the 1995 Super Bowl. Gronkowski's three TD catches in the first half matched the NFL record for an entire playoff game.
Tebow struggled to move the Broncos, completing just nine of 26 passes for 136 yards. He was also sacked and stripped of the ball on Denver's sixth play from scrimmage to set up Gronkowski's diving 10-yard TD catch that gave New England a 14-0 lead midway.
The Broncos seemed to respond when Quinton Carter intercepted Brady, giving Denver the ball at the New England 24 yard-line. Four plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, Willis McGahee ran it in from the 5 to cut the deficit to 14-7.
But Brady hit Gronkowski from 12 yards out to make it 21-7 and then, just before the 2-minute warning, Brady connected with Deion Branch on a 61-yard TD pass down the left sideline to take a 28-7 lead. The four touchdown passes were already a Patriots franchise record for a playoff game.
But Brady and Gronkowski weren't done yet.
After Denver went three-and-out to give New England the ball back at its own 42 with 69 seconds left in the half, Brady led the Patriots into scoring range and hit Gronkowski at the goal line for a 19-yard score that made it 35-7. Brady's five TD passes were a record for a playoff half.
Brady hit Aaron Hernandez, this time from 17 yards out, just 3:14 into the second half to give New England a 42-7 lead. Brady's six TD passes moved him into third on the NFL's all-time post-season list with 36, passing Terry Bradshaw, Kurt Warner and Dan Marino.
With a wind chill of 12 degrees at the kickoff, the Patriots earned their first playoff victory in four years and — for a second time — ended Tebow's remarkable run. The Denver quarterback, who won six straight starts before losing 41-23 to New England on Dec. 18, led the Broncos to a 29-23 overtime victory over Pittsburgh in the opening round.