DENVER - Not this time.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots shut down Tim Tebow's late-game heroics and clinched a playoff berth with a 41-23 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The Patriots (11-3) won their sixth straight game and another AFC East title by bouncing back from an early, 17-6 deficit and an awful first quarter in which they were outgained on the ground 167 yards to 4.

This time, there was no last-minute magic from Tebow, who had guided the Broncos (8-6) to four straight fourth-quarter comebacks and six straight wins.

This time, the Broncos started out fast and then fizzled. They scored on their first three possessions and then were done in by a trio of second-quarter turnovers.

Champ Bailey had said the Broncos needed a big game against a big QB to prove to themselves and others that they were not just a curiosity but a contender. They didn't get it on this day.

Denver has faced four quarterbacks currently ranked in the top 10 in yards passing - Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers (twice), and Brady. They're 1-4 in those games.

Brady, who was 23 of 34 for 320 yards with two TD passes and a touchdown run, made up for another bad day by the Patriots defense to beat the Broncos for the second time in eight career starts - the only team with a winning record against the three-time Super Bowl champion.

With its first loss since Oct. 30, the AFC West-leading Broncos face a tougher path to the playoffs, with a trip to Buffalo next week followed by a season finale against Kansas City, which ended Green Bay's 19-game winning streak Sunday behind Kyle Orton, the player Tebow replaced in Denver.

Tebow fell to 7-2 as Denver's starter.

The Broncos' 167 yards rushing in the first quarter - 11 more than their league-leading per-game average - represented the biggest output in any quarter against the Pats in the Bill Belichick era. They finished with 252.

Tebow slipped a tackle in the backfield by Rob Ninkovich and darted for a 9-yard TD on the game's opening drive. Lonnie Paxton's bad snap prevented Matt Prater from kicking the extra point.

Brady needed five snaps to put the Patriots ahead, 7-6, with a 33-yard touchdown toss to Chad Ochocinco, his first score since Nov. 21, 2010, for Cincinnati at Buffalo.

Tebow was 11 of 22 for 194 yards and added 93 more on 12 carries. Late in the fourth quarter, he was dropped for a 28-yard sack by Ninkovich, a bad ending to a big week for the second-year pro from Florida.

During the week, Tebow cemented his role as a cultural phenomenon as he was the subject of a skit on Saturday Night Live; his name was brought up in the GOP debate in Sioux City, Iowa; and two high school students were suspended for organizing several "Tebowing" kneel-downs in tribute to the Broncos QB.