Tom Brady rallies Patriots past Peyton Manning, Broncos in overtime classic

November 25, 2013 11:05 AM

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Tom Brady rallies Patriots past Peyton Manning, Broncos in overtime classic

Tony Carter heard Wes Welker yelling the universal special teams warning call as he streamed down the frigid field in overtime, eager to throw a block for a punt return.

Only one more crazy bounce that settled a Broncos-Patriots showdown on Sunday night that turned into the most bizarre game of the NFL season.

Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal lifted New England to its improbable 34-31 victory with 1:56 left on the overtime clock.

"I was trying to get away from the ball, but the ball kind of bounced right at me," Carter said. "It was a tough bounce."

And such a fitting capper to a classically weird game of super-sized blunders, spectacular big plays and distinct momentum shifts.

Think about it: The Patriots fumbled six times in the first half, trailed 24-zip, and were booed by the home crowd at Gillette Stadium. They allowed Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno to gash the defense for a career-high 224 rushing yards.

"You've got to forget about what happened in the first half because it was a terrible half of football," said Brady, who passed for 344 yards and 3 TDs. "I don't even know what you coach at that point, you know?"

Patriots players maintain that there was no fiery speech from Bill Belichick as they processed a 24-0 halftime deficit. No emotional locker room rally chants.

"It was just thinking, 'If they can score 24 points in the first half, then we can do it in the second half,' " said safety Devin McCourty.

New England began the game with a flurry of turnovers on a frosty night with the wind chill at 6 degrees at kickoff, with 22 miles-per-hour winds.

Wes Welker's big in-your-face homecoming statement? Not here. Not now. Not with the Patriots playing -- and winning -- like it was a game of two halves.

Then again, more than a few members in the Patriots camp had to be thinking that they needed a perfect half -- and that if Stevan Ridley, Brady and LeGarrette Blount could fumble in the frigid first half, then the Broncos were due a few blunders, too.

The Patriots took the second-half kickoff and turned it into an 80-yard, confidence-building touchdown drive that made it 24-7.

No sweat. Manning could just keep handing the ball off to Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for 107 yards in the first half. Milk the clock. Go home.

But this game was so much about ebb and flow, and the injury-stung Patriots have shown all season that they are about grit and resiliency.

The Patriots opened the second half with a snappy TD drive, then Montee Ball fumbled to set up another touchdown. Then the defense forced a punt, and Brady found a wide open Julian Edelman for a 43-yard completion that set up a 6-yard TD pass to Rob Gronkowski that cut Denver's margin to three points.

But one glimpse of Brady's body language as he emphatically celebrated his 350th career TD pass in the end zone with Gronkowski -- yelling with his tight end, facemask-to-facemask -- underscored the emotion fueling the momentum.

An ugly Manning interception to open the fourth quarter -- rookie Ryan Logan slipped in front of Eric Decker -- led to Edelman's 14-yard TD.

This was supposed to be a chance for Welker to have an in-your-face revenge performance, after leaving on bad terms last offseason as the Patriots' all-time leading receiver. Not so. He finished with 4 catches for 31 yards.

Instead, Edelman stole the show with 9 catches for 110 yards and the two scores. His second touchdown came with an exclamation point as he caught a quick rocket screen, juked a defender and then soared head-first into the end zone to give New England its first lead of the night.

The effort was yet another image a Patriots team that wore a certain passion on their comeback sleeves, six nights after a loss at Carolina ended on a controversial no-call of an apparent pass interference.

Manning, who forced overtime by directing an 80-yard drive capped by an 11-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas, left wishing he had one more opportunity.

Instead, Manning can add another chapter to his string of personal nightmares at Gillette Stadium. And he can chalk up another cold-weather loss, too.

Before the final muff, both teams had two possessions in overtime -- when Belichick won the coin toss and elected to take the wind at his back rather than take the football.

Then the strategy and wind gusts gave way to a Murphy's Law moment for Carter.

Source: usatoday.com

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