BOSTON (CBS) – Boomer Esiason of WFAN and CBS Sports called in to talk Patriots-Broncos on Toucher and Rich after last night’s overtime thriller.
After a sluggish start to the game, the Patriots went into the half down 24-0. However, the second half was a much different story.
New England scored on five straight drives to open the second half, which helped erase that 24-point deficit. A Peyton Manning touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas toward the end of regulation evened the score at 31-31.
The Patriots won the coin toss in overtime, but coach Bill Belichick elected to defer and let Peyton Manning’s offense work into the blistering, 20+ mph wind gusts.
The gutsy called paid off.
A misplayed punt by the Broncos late in the overtime period led to a New England fumble recovery, setting up a 31-yard field goal for kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Boomer Esiason told Toucher and Rich that Belichick would’ve never have made that call back in the day when overtime was sudden death, but because of the new rules in overtime it was “the smart call.”
The Patriots improved to 8-3 after Sunday night’s 34-31 OT win, and are seated firmly in second place in the AFC.
Boomer believes “Brady-Manning XIV” lived up to its billing.
“I thought it was a fantastic game,” said Esiason. “I was left with my breath taken away. It was one of the best games all year,” adding, “I’m exhausted. I didn’t get any sleep. I’m glad I stayed up to watch it.”
Boomer Esiason believes these two teams are the class of the AFC, and that yesterday was a preview of the conference title game.
“Quite frankly, and I hope it’s this way, but I think it was a preview of the AFC Championship Game because that would just absolutely be fantastic.”
The conversation then shifted towards Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. The third-year pro coughed up his fourth fumble of the season on the Patriots opening drive, and was taken back for a touchdown by Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
Turnovers, and more specifically fumbles, can change games – and if Ridley doesn’t make this problem go away, he could be the odd man out in the Patriots backfield according to Esiason.
“I feel bad for Stevan Ridley, because he runs hard and knows his assignments. But the fumble-itis has got to stop. Sooner or later he’ll be back in there and have an opportunity to make plays for them. I’m sure it’s going to be a very, very tough day for the young man.”
Esiason went on to say that the competition for the Patriots and Broncos in the AFC is weak. The one team Esiason felt could challenge them was the Indianapolis Colts, but after an injury to Reggie Wayne ended his season they just haven’t looked the same.
Listen to the full below: