Here’s what we saw in an epic, 34-31, Patriots overtime victory Sunday night at Gillette Stadium:
1. Unreal in OT
The Patriots and Broncos looked as though they were headed toward a tie but Tony Carter’s costly special teams mistake set up an easy Patriots score with time dwindling down in the extra session. With Wes Welker shouting to his Broncos teammates to “get away” from the bounding ball, Carter inadvertently touched the pigskin and Nate Ebner fell on it to set the Pats up for a chip-shot, 31-yard field goal. Stephen Gostkowski drilled it, giving the Patriots an improbable victory after being down 24-0 at halftime. The Pats moved to 8-3 on the season and seem primed for at least the second seed in the AFC playoffs with five weeks remaining in the regular season.
2. A frantic fourth
To open the fourth quarter, Logan Ryan stepped in front of Eric Decker and intercepted Peyton Manning. Three plays, 30 yards and 79 seconds later, the Patriots had remarkably taken the lead, 28-24, when Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman on a curl pattern. The Pats receiver turned up-field after the reception and dove into the end zone to send the Gillette Stadium crowd into delirium. Manning had a brutal night prior to late in the fourth quarter when he, with a lot of help from Demaryius Thomas, drove the Broncos 80 yards in 4:31 for a tying touchdown that forced overtime.
3. Turnover-fest 2013
The Patriots had as odd a first half as has been seen in the Bill Belichick era as they coughed up the ball three times. The three turnovers directly led to Denver scores.
In the first quarter, Wesley Woodyard blasted Stevan Ridley and the Pats’ back fumbled yet again as the ball popped up in the air, was recovered by Vonn Miller and returned 60 yards for a touchdown. On the Patriots’ next drive, Brady was strip-sacked by Miller and the Broncos recovered. Two Knowshon Moreno runs later, the Broncos had a 14-0 lead just six minutes and six seconds into the game. LeGarrette Blount added his name to the New England fumble list minutes later as he was whacked by Duke Ihenacho. Denver recovered that Pats blunder as well, leading to a Matt Prater 27-yard field goal.
The Patriots exploded for 21 points out of the halftime gateand Denver couldn’t match the Pats’ firepower in the third:
- Edelman beat Quentin Jammer on a fade route to complete a quick Pats drive to open the quarter.
- Dane Fletcher forced a Montee Ball fumble that set up a Brandon Bolden touchdown.
- Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a 6-yard touchdown pass to pull the Pats to within three pointsheading into the fourth quarter.
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS