Patriots edge Broncos in OT after remarkable comeback
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime Sunday night to cap a stunning comeback from a 24-point halftime deficit for host New England.
The winning kick was set up by a huge gaffe by Denver's Tony Carter, who was hit by a punt that Nate Ebner recovered at the 13-yard line. Tom Brady threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns and the Patriots (8-3) overcame a disastrous fumble-filled first quarter by scoring 31 consecutive points in the second half to pull within a game of the Broncos (9-2) and Kansas City for the best record in the AFC.
Julian Edelman had nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns as New England posted the biggest comeback in franchise history and became the first team to erase a 24-0 halftime deficit since Manning and the Broncos did it against San Diego last season. It was only the third game in NFL history to go to overtime after one team led by as many as 24 points at intermission.
Manning threw for only 150 yards with two TD passes and one interception and Knowshon Moreno rushed for a career-high 224 yards and a score for Denver, which also got a 60-yard fumble return for a TD by linebacker Von Miller. Wes Welker had four catches for 31 yards in his return to frigid Foxborough, where the temperature was 22 degrees with a wind chill of 6 at kickoff.
Denver's defense forced three fumbles in a 2 1/2-minute span en route to taking a 17-0 first-quarter lead and 24-0 halftime edge. Miller followed his fumble return by stripping Brady, leading to Moreno's 2-yard TD run, before Manning got in the act with 10-yard scoring pass to Jacob Tamme for a seemingly commanding halftime lead given the weather conditions.
The Patriots stormed back with four consecutive touchdown drives in the second half - with Brady sandwiching a pair of scoring passes to Edelman around Brandon Bolden's 1-yard run and Rob Gronkowski's 6-yard TD reception to go in front 28-24 with 13:13 to play. Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal extended it to 31-24 with 7:37 to play but Manning responded with an 11-yard scoring strike to Demaryius Thomas to tie it with 3:06 to play.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Brady registered the 56th 300-yard passing game of his career, the fifth-most all time. ... Thomas became the first player in franchise history with 10 TD passes in back-to-back seasons for the Broncos, who lost CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a shoulder injury suffered on the final play of the first half while diving for a Hail Mary pass. ... New England, which became the first team since 2007 to lose three fumbles in the opening quarter, was shut out in a half for the first time since Dec. 24, 2011, against the New York Giants and faced its biggest halftime deficit since trailing Atlanta 28-3 in 1998.