Final, 34-31 Patriots: That’s it, it’s all over. The Patriots pull off the stunning comeback. They trailed 24-0 at halftime, charged back to take the lead, endured a long overtime and capitalized on a major mistake by Denver, and they’re now 8-3, with a win in their back pocket against the conference’s best team.
What a game, what a night, and what a different story line coming out than what was expected at halftime.
Overtime, 3:01, 31-31: A 17-yard catch-and-run by Edelman on first down goes for naught, and the Patriots have to punt from midfield.
Allen’s punt was hit Tony Carter in the leg after Welker waved off his teammates, and Nate Ebner recovered at the 13-yard line.
A chip shot by Gostkowski wins it now.
Overtime, 4:50, 31-31: The Broncos were driving but Welker couldn’t make a catch on third-and-4, and Denver was forced to punt. It wasn’t a good one, either, as Edelman made the fair catch at his 20-yard line.
Overtime, 8:08, 31-31: Knowshown Moreno is over 200 yards rushing, and Aqib Talib is hurt. First-and-10 Denver at their 43-yard line.
Overtime, 10:04, 31-31: Brady threw a slant to Kenbrell Thompkins on second-and-4, and Quentin Jammer grabbed Thompkins’ shoulder and hip. There was no call, Brady and Belichick were outraged, and then Brady threw incomplete on a long bomb to Edelman on third down.
After the punt, Broncos take over at their own 13.
Overtime, 12:21, 31-31: The Broncos drove to midfield, but an offenisve pass interference penalty set them back to their own 42-yard line. On third-and-long, Manning’s deep pass was severely underthrown, allowing Talib to break it up.
Edelman’s fair catch at the 18-yard line means the next team to score wins.
Overtime, 15:00, 31-31: You don’t see teams turn down the football too often, but the Patriots just chose to take the wind instead of the football.
Before the rule changes, that would be considered lunacy. But as it is now, where a field goal on the opening drive doesn’t end the game, it’s not a bad choice. The Broncos haven’t excelled going into the wind tonight.
End of regulation, 31-31: We are heading to overtime.
If you presented the Patriots with that option at halftime, they likely would have taken it, but right now they have to feel like they missed an opportunity to put this one away.
Nevertheless, Brady v. Manning (for as much as this game has been anything but that matchup) heads to an extra period. Let’s watch, shall we?!
Fourth quarter, :28, 31-31: The Pats’ D comes up with a stop, with Andre Carter putting the pressure on Manning and chasing him out of the pocket on one play.
First-and-10 for New England from their own 11. I imagine they’ll play it safe.
Fourth quarter, 1:34, 31-31: Brady completed a pass to Edelman, but the receiver was a yard short of the sticks. Ryan Allen came on to punt to Wes Welker (who would have run a five-yard route, you know), and Welker returned it out to the 32-yard line.
Remember that the Broncos are driving into the wind, so any long field-goal attempts would be especially tough.
Fourth quarter, 2:00, 31-31: At the two-minute warning, the Pats have a third-and-5 from their 25-yard line coming up. The Broncos have all three timeouts, should they come up with a stop. If the Pats run and get stopped, the Broncos will have to burn one, but if Brady throws incomplete, Peyton will have a full complement of timeouts for a potential game-winning drive.
Fourth quarter, 3:06, 31-31: A fourth down was upcoming, until the yellow flag flew. It was thrown because Rob Ninkovich had his hand on Jacob Tamme’s hip and turned the tight end as Manning’s pass sailed in that direction.
The Broncos were given some breathing room, and it took them just one play to capitalize, with Manning lofting a pass to the left sideline in the end zone, with Demaryius Thomas 1-on-1 with Aqib Talib. The cornerback stopped ever-so-slightly, enough for Thomas to gain separation and haul in the touchdown to tie the game at 31.
That was an 80-yard drive for Denver. Does Brady have one more in him? A field goal can win it.
Fourth quarter, 7:29, 31-24 Patriots: It looked for a moment like the Patriots had pulled off a huge turnover, but Aqib Talib was called for defensive holding, taking his own interception off the board.
Regardless of the penalty, it was a bad decision/throw by Manning. The 5-yard penalty doesn’t help much in terms of field position, but that was nearly a costly, costly mistake.
Fourth quarter, 7:37, 31-24 Patriots: Brady had Edelman open over the middle of the end zone, but with Von Miller bearing down on the QB, he rushed it a bit and just missed the outstretched arms of his receiver.
Gostkowski made the 31-yard field goal look easy on the next play, and the Pats now lead by a touchdown.
The Broncos have not done anything at all this half, so you could look at it two different ways. They could be toast, or they could be overdue. One thing’s for sure — the Pats’ D has confidence through the roof right now. One more stop just might be enough to get this thing done, but a Denver score, and they’ll be starting from scratch.
Fourth quarter, 12:22, 28-24 Patriots: The Patriots are back in business. The Broncos had a two-yard run followed by two incompletions, taking almost no time off the clock before punting the bacll back to New England.
Edelman fielded the punt at his own 32-yard line, then bopped back and forth about five times before getting around the edge and returning the ball all the way back to the Denver 47-yard line.
Fourth quarter, 13:13, 28-24 Patriots: And the Patriots … have … the lead.
It didn’t take long for the Pats to strike. Brady threw to a wide open Gronkowski over the middle for a gain of 15 yards, and two plays later, Brady threw to Edelman, who ran an out route, caught the pass, escaped the pursuit of Chris Harris and burst into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.
This has been an incredible 16 minutes of football for the Patriots. Absolutely incredible.
Fourth quarter, 14:32, 24-21 Broncos: How’d the Broncos respond to pressure? Manning threw a pick — to rookie Logan Ryan — and the Pats now have first-and-10 at the Denver 30. Holy moly.
End of third quarter, 24-21 Broncos: It’ll be second-and-3 for the Broncos when the fourth quarter begins. The Denver offense hasn’t had much pressure to perform tonight, so let’s see if they can snap into it.
Third quarter, :19, 24-21 Broncos: Wow.
If you thought the Patriots had a chance — which they did — there’s no way you thought a comeback could happen so quickly.
A huge 43-yard pass to Edelman (into the wind) got the Patriots into the red zone, and facing a third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Brady waited patiently for Gronkowski to run an option route before delivering a bullet into No. 87’s chest.
And just like that, we have a 3-point game, and Manning and the Broncos are about to lose the wind. Hey now.
Third quarter, 2:01, 24-14 Broncos: Wes Welker was able to come up with a 17-yards catch and run to move the chains on a third down, but the Patriots regrouped and came up with a stop, with Jamie Collins stripping Manning on the next third down. Manning fell on the ball, but the Broncos had to punt. After Edelman’s 11-yard return, the Pats will start the drive at their own 35-yard line.
The Pats are still going into the wind, so if they can pick up a couple of first downs on the ground here, Brady will have a much more realistic chance of hitting downfield targets in the fourth quarter.
That also means Manning won’t be able to power any balls through the wind in the fourth.
Third quarter, 5:34, 24-14 Broncos: A holding penalty on the Broncos on the kick return sets the Broncos back to their own 15-yard line to start this drive.
Third quarter, 5:40, 24-14 Broncos: The Patriots are building something here, with two touchdowns in less than three minutes changing the scope of this game.
The big play of this scoring drive, yet again, came from Rob Gronkowski, who caught a pass over the middle on third-and-3 and then dragged humans all the way down to the goal line. Two plays later, Bolden ran up the gut for a one-yard score, and it’s now a 10-point game.
Credit to the fans who stuck around through halftime, because they’re at least getting a football game here.
Third quarter, 8:18, 24-7 Broncos: Hold on one minute — the Pats have something going again.
Dane Fletcher and Rob Ninkovich combined to strip the football from Montee Ball. The ball bounced every which way, off at least five hands, before the Patriots finally recovered it.
Pats take over at the 32-yard line. A touchdown here, and we’ve …. got a ballgame?
Third quarter, 11:21, 24-7 Broncos: There’s life for the Patriots.
A big 33-yard catch-and-run by Rob Gronkowski was the highlight of the eight-play, 80-yard drive that took 3:39. It was capped off with Brady floating a perfect pass to Edelman in the back right corner of the end zone.
Of note: Kenbrell Thompkins looked to suffer a head injury on the drive after making a catch.
Third quarter, 24-0 Broncos: Well, they’re going to go ahead and play this second half. First-and-10 for the Patriots from their own 20-yard line.
Halftime, 24-0 Broncos: The Patriots drive stalled, leading to a punt, but Trindon Holliday touched the bouncing ball. It was recovered by Marquice Cole at the Denver 42-yard line, giving the Patriots one shot at the end zone.
Brady took the shotgun snap and fired toward the left corner of the end zone, but his pass was going into the wind and came up way short.
It gives you an indication of how tough it is to pass in that direction, and it shows you how hard it will be to mount any sort of comeback in the second half.
Second quarter, 1:12, 24-0 Broncos: A small victory for the Patriots, forcing Denver to punt. We’ll see what the Patriots choose to do, backed up near their own goal line, going into the wind.
Second quarter, 3:34, 24-0 Broncos: The Patriots got a gift of a personal foul penalty on Sylvester Williams, but they can’t do anything offensively, with a sack of Brady on second down sinking their hopes of generating a drive. Ryan Allen’s punt traveled all of 27 yards, as it was going into the wind, and the Broncos take over at their 28-yard line, looking to deliver another dagger.
Second quarter, 6:10, 24-0 Broncos: Things are bad for the Patriots. Real bad.
The Broncos faced a third-and-20 at their own 33-yard line, their hopes looking slim. But Manning dumped a screen pass off to Montee Ball, who took off for 31 yards. The Pats’ D was a little stunned after that, allowing the Broncos to run their way to the 10-yard line. Facing a third down, Manning threw over double coverage into the hands of Jacob Tamme for a touchdown, and the Broncos now lead 24-0.
Not sure what else there is to be said. You fumble three times, you have to be perfect after that. The Patriots are far from perfect.
Second quarter, 10:38, 17-0 Broncos: Brady’s pass to Amendola on fourth down was incomplete. Broncos take over at the 30-yard line.
Second quarter, 10:57, 17-0 Broncos: Another fumble by Brady, though this time the QB calmly leaned over, picked up the ball and completed a pass to Bolden. Still, the fumbles are piling up, comically so.
Bolden got the drive started with a 34-yard run. But the Pats have a fourth-and-5 upcoming.
Second quarter, 12:48, 17-0 Broncos: Here’s a bit of good news for the Patriots — they forced a punt. Manning’s pass to Eric Decker sailed well high, and the Broncos were forced to punt. Passing has not been a priority for Denver — and why would it be? — as they’ve now run the ball 15 times, while Manning has just six pass attempts.
Edelman fair caught the ball on the 11-yard line, but the Broncos were penalized for a player being out of bounds voluntarily on the punt. They replayed the down, and Edelman dropped the punt and then fumbled when hit. Fortunately for the sake of everyone in this building, Michael Buchanan jumped on the loose ball to recover it for the Patriots.
End of first quarter, 17-0 Broncos: The first quarter comes to an end with the Broncos moving the chains on third down, and this place is dispirited to say the least.
One fumble is typically deflating, so to have three of them — all leading to points — is quite the bummer for the Patriots and the home crowd. It’s certainly not “over,” but it’ll take a lot — defensive stops, forced turnovers, special teams breaks — for the Patriots to climb back into it.
First quarter, 1:18, 17-0 Broncos: The clock doesn’t work, and neither does the Patriots’ offense. The drive stalls near midfield, and Ryan Allen’s punt bounces into the end zone for a touchback.
And yes, both the game clock and play clock are not working, so we’re all in the dark watching the game here.
First quarter, 2:57, 17-0 Broncos: The Broncos made their way deep into the red zone, but Manning took a sack on second-and-goal, and they eventually settled for a field goal.
That’s a half-win for the Patriots’ defense, but a 17-0 hole late in the first quarter to the Broncos, on a night when passing won’t be easy? That’s … not ideal.
First quarter, 7:26, 14-0 Broncos: The fumble is confirmed, but Blount touched Trevathan. First-and-10 for Denver at the New England 44-yard line. Pats’ D needs a stop now, badly.
First quarter, 7:19, 14-0 Broncos: No, I’m not joking — the Patriots fumbled again.
This one came from LeGarrette Blount after he took a hard hit, and the ball was returned to the Pats’ 11-yard line.
It’s all under review — the fumble itself, as well as Danny Trevathan was down before taking off running.
First quarter, 8:54, 14-0 Broncos: Two plays, two runs, and the Broncos are in the end zone again. Manning has a 14-0 lead, and he hasn’t even had to break a sweat.
First quarter, 9:22, 7-0 Broncos: It goes from bad to worse for the Patriots, as Brady gets the ball ripped out of his arms while getting sacked. The Broncos recovered and take over, first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. Yikes.
First quarter, 9:54, 7-0 Broncos: The Patriots were driving nicely down the field … until (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) Stevan Ridley fumbled. Wesley Woodyard put his helmet on the ball, popping it loose. Von Miller picked it up and took off, running free for 60 yards and a touchdown.
And just like that, a promising Patriots drive goes down the drain, and it ends up costing them 7 points.
Will Ridley get benched? We shall see.
First quarter, 13:08, 0-0: Wes Welker made a catch on third down, but Dont’a Hightower was right there to bring him down short of the sticks, forcing the Broncos to punt.
Knowshon Moreno had a big run on the first play of the game, but that was pretty much it for Denver.
Brady and Co. take over at the 24-yard line after an Edelman fair catch.
First quarter, 15:00: Stephen Gostkowski, with the wind at his back, sent his kickoff 9 yards deep in the end zone, where Trindon Holliday took a knee. This one is under way!
8:26 p.m.: The Pats won the toss and … elected to defer. Broncos will start with the ball tonight.
8: 22 p.m.: The temperature is 22 degrees, the wind is blowing at 20 mph, and the wind chill is 6 degrees. Be happy you’re not outside!
The Pats played a video honoring Welker and thanking him for “six memorable seasons.” The video played while the Broncos took the field, and afterward, Welker was shown playing catch, either unaware of the video or simply focusing on the game. The crowd, which is settling in tightly, did not react much.
8:10 p.m.: Warmups have wrapped up, and as expected, passing the ball was a chore for Manning. He underthrew receivers on the few pass plays I watched, but not too much should be gained from that. A lot of warmups for Manning were just getting a gauge on how the wind will affect his passes. We’ll see if he can adjust once the game begins, 20 minutes from right now.
Wes Welker was on the field, of course, for warmups, and he shared a pleasant exchange with Robert Kraft on the field. If there was someone from the Patriots organization who did not want to see Welker go, it was likely Mr. Kraft.
7:03 p.m.: The inactives have been announced, and there will be a prime Denver target missing and a key Patriots defender out as well.
Julius Thomas will not play for Denver due to a knee injury, while Steve Gregory is a no-go for New England as he is still recovering from his broken thumb. Gregory’s cast was removed this week, but he was deemed not ready to play in this one.
Brandon Spikes is ACTIVE for the Patriots, which is a big boost for the run defense. Also noteworthy: Alfonzo Dennard is surprisingly ACTIVE tonight. He underwent a minor knee procedure last weekend and wasn’t expected to play, but apparently he looks and feels good enough to give it a go.
Here is the complete list of inactives:
Steve Gregory, S
Michael Hoomanawanui, TE
Jake Bequette, DL
Steve Beauharnais, LB
Marcus Forston, DL
Josh Boyce, WR
Chris Barker, DL
Zac Dysert, CB
Ronnie Hillman, RB
Champ Bailey, CB
Michael Huff, S
J.D. Walton, C
Chris Kuper, GJulius Thomas, TE
6 p.m.: Sunday Night Football. Tom Brady. Peyton Manning. New England Patriots. Denver Broncos.
And the weather.
Yes, for all of the Brady-Manning hype that’s led up to tonight, neither may be the biggest star of the night. That title may belong to good old Mother Nature.
It’s downright frigid outside, which wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy if not for the gusts of wind, which are making Foxboro a pretty miserable place to be right now. It’s 23 degrees out, but it feels like 7 degrees with the wind, which is steadily blowing between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph. According to Weather.com, it will feel like 5 degrees when the game begins, and it will feel like 3 degrees when the game ends.
Those are lousy ways to feel.
As far as the game goes, the wind spells trouble for Manning’s high-flying passing attack. Denver comes into the night ranked 28th in rushing yards per attempt, so if the wind messes with Manning’s accuracy — and given his lack of velocity since returning last season from a neck injury, it should — the Broncos could have trouble moving the ball.
As much as the Patriots prefer a game plan that involves Brady throwing early and often, the Patriots have a more than capable running game, ranked 11th in rushing yards per attempt, ninth in rushing yards per game and tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns.
While the weather isn’t expected to change, there will be some pregame news. Brandon Spikes, who would be essential to stopping the run, was downgraded from probable to questionable yesterday, so his status will be important when inactive players are announced. I’ll have that, along with any other pregame developments right here in the live blog, which will provide updates and analysis of all the action from kickoff till the final whistle tonight.
In the meantime, here are some pregame reading suggestions for you: