8:30 PM ET, November 24, 2013
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
The game was in the hands of two great quarterbacks.
Then a punting duel ensued and a live ball hit the leg of a backup cornerback.
Second Half, Second Chance
Tom Brady was a different player in the second half, completing more than 80 percent of his passes to help the Patriots overcome a 24-point deficit.
|First Half||Second Half|
Tony Carter ran into Ryan Allen's punt after it bounced, Nate Ebner recovered for the Patriots at the Broncos' 13-yard line, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime to give the New England Patriots a 34-31 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.
"What a crazy game, and what a fun finish," Gostkowski said.
The Patriots lost fumbles on their first three possessions, and they were booed several times in the first half.
But Brady threw for three touchdowns to lead the Patriots back from a 24-0 halftime deficit against the NFL's best offense for a 31-24 lead as New England scored on its first five possessions of the second half. Then Manning threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Demaryius Thomas for the Broncos, tying it at 31.
"You can't move the ball when you're losing it," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "You've got to hang on to it."
But Carter's gaffe was the third lost fumble for the Broncos in the second half.
"It was really a tale of two halves," Denver interim coach Jack Del Rio said. "We forced turnovers and jumped on them early. They forced turnovers and jumped on us at the end.
"We just had a fluke play at the end."
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The game marked the return to New England of former Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who signed with Denver in the offseason. He was a nonfactor with four catches for 31 yards. The crowd even chanted "Wel-ker! Wel-ker!" when he went back to return the final punt. Then he waved his hands to warn his teammates to stay away from the ball when it bounced.
Carter didn't, and the Broncos (9-2) remained tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West lead. The Patriots (8-3) lead the AFC East by three games.
"I was running to get away from the ball, and it took a bounce right into me," Carter said.
Welker said he has to do a better job of communicating with his teammates when he's in the game as a punt returner.
"I've got to get to him earlier, and tell him, and get those guys out of the way if I'm not going to make the catch," Welker told reporters, according to the Denver Post. "I was a little bit in between, and you can't be that way."
The early turnovers helped Denver to a big halftime advantage, but the Patriots took the lead when Brady hit Julian Edelman for a touchdown early in the fourth. Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal made it 31-24 midway through the fourth.
"We had some plays in the first half that didn't go our way, so it was nice to get a good bounce, and we needed it," Brady said.
But Manning, who had thrown for only 73 yards in the first 3½ quarters, led the Broncos on an 80-yard drive. Twice the Broncos were rescued by penalties: first when a defensive holding penalty negated an interception, and again when a pass interference on third-and-7 from the Patriots' 17 gave Denver a first down.
On the next play, Manning lobbed one to Thomas in the left corner of the end zone to tie it.
Manning had his worst game of the season, completing 19 of 36 passes for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He is 4-10 in his career against Brady.
"Hated the way that ended, not getting a chance to get our hands on the ball," Manning said. "We helped them with some short fields. It's hard to do that to our defense."
Brady had one of his best games, connecting on 34 of 50 passes for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brady led the Patriots to three straight touchdowns in the third quarter to cut Denver's lead to 24-21 heading into the fourth.
He led New England 80 yards for a touchdown to open the second half, thanks to a 33-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski and a 5-yard scoring pass to Edelman. Montee Ball coughed it up on Denver's next possession, and six plays later Brandon Bolden ran it in from the 1 to make it a 10-point game.
A 6-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski with 19 seconds left in the third quarter cut the Broncos' lead to 24-21.
"We calmed down. We played each play one play at time," Edelman said of the difference in the second half. "We didn't turn the ball over in the second half."
Von Miller returned a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown and then strip-sacked Brady to force another turnover in the first quarter, setting up Knowshon Moreno's 2-yard TD run. Moreno finished with a career-high 224 yards on 37 carries.
New England had lost five fumbles all season coming into the game and was sixth in the NFL in net turnovers. But Stevan Ridley, who coughed it up on the opening drive, has fumbled in three consecutive games, losing two.
The temperature made it difficult for players on each side and could have been the reason that first the play clocks and then the game clocks went out, forcing the referees to keep the official time on the field. The clocks came back early in the second quarter.
The Patriots were underdogs at home for the first time since 2005 but improved to 6-0 at Gillette Stadium this season. ... The Broncos added to their NFL record by scoring 25 points or more for the 16th straight game. ... Edelman finished with nine catches for 110 yards.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to a game...(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.8||5.2|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||3-4||4-6|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||1||0|
|TD||09:54||Von Miller 60 Yd Fumble Return (Matt Prater Kick)||7||0|
|TD||08:54||Knowshon Moreno 2 Yd Run (Matt Prater Kick)||14||0|
|FG||02:57||Matt Prater 27 Yd||17||0|
|TD||06:10||Jacob Tamme 10 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||24||0|
|TD||11:21||Julian Edelman 5 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick)||24||7|
|TD||05:40||Brandon Bolden 1 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick)||24||14|
|TD||00:19||Rob Gronkowski 6 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick)||24||21|
|TD||13:13||Julian Edelman 14 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick)||24||28|
|FG||07:37||Stephen Gostkowski 31 Yd||24||31|
|TD||03:06||Demaryius Thomas 11 Yd Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick)||31||31|
|FG||01:56||Stephen Gostkowski 31 Yd||31||34|
Tom Brady was a different player in the 2nd half, completing more than 80 percent of his passes. And after throwing for just 81 yards in the entire 1st half, he racked up 76 passing yards on New England's first drive after halftime.[+]
Tom Brady Passing Sunday vs Broncos
From Elias: The 24-point blown lead matches the largest by the Broncos in a loss. They previously blew a 24-point lead in a 30-27 loss to the Raiders in 1988. The comeback from 24 points down is the largest deficit overcome to win a game in Patriots history. Their previous best was a comeback from 23 down to beat the Seahawks, 38-23 in 1984.
Demaryius Thomas: 1st player in Broncos history to have at least 10 TD catches in consecutive seasons
Over the last 10 seasons, only Michael Vick has a worst win percentage in games played in freezing temperatures than Peyton Manning.[+]
Since Bill Belichick took over as Patriots head coach in 2000, the Patriots are 15-25 (.375 win pct) in games with at least 3 turnovers, the best win pct with at least 3 turnovers in that timeframe.[+]
Best Win Pct in Games with At Least 3 TO - Since 2000
Tom Brady was 10-of-10 with three touchdowns on passes traveling 10 or fewer yards downfield in the second half/overtime when targeting Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. In the first half, Edelman and Gronkowski had a combined four targets.[+]
Tom Brady Passing to Edelman/Gronkowski, Sunday
Since 2001, Tom Brady is 23-5 as a starting QB when the game-time temperature is 32 degrees or lower, throwing 48 TD and just 21 Int. In that same time, Peyton Manning is 2-5 when it's 32 degrees or lower (0-3 in the postseason) with 6 TD and 10 Int. It's expected to be below freezing for Sunday night's game.[+]
Among Super Bowl-winning QBs, only Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas went head-to-head more often than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. (NOTE: THIS INCLUDES GAMES PRIOR TO THEIR SUPER BOWL WIN.)[+]
Something to keep an eye on when the Broncos face the Patriots on Sunday is how quickly Peyton Manning releases the ball. He's still nursing an ankle injury and that could be the reason why his average time before the pass was just 2.55 seconds against the Chiefs in Week 11, his second lowest average time before the pass this season. The 2nd graphic could be built as a line graph to illustrate how much lower his average was in Week 11 compared to the previous 4 games.[+]
Lowest Average Time Before Pass - Peyton Manning This Season
ESPN Stats & Information