BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots looked to be completely lifeless on Sunday night, coming out and fumbling three times in the first quarter en route to falling behind 24-0 by halftime.
Yet it was a completely different story in the second half, turning a miserable night at Gillette Stadium into an unforgettable comeback.
Here’s a look at the Four Ups and Four Downs from the 34-31 overtime win.
Obviously, no comeback can happen without the quarterback being his best, and Brady most certainly was. He led the Patriots on three scoring drives in the third quarter, which was no easy feat giving the strong winds blowing in his face, and he finished the night with 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The victory makes Brady 10-4 all time in games against Peyton Manning.
Once considered the heir to Wes Welker’s throne, Julian Edelman sure looked the part in this one. He caught nine passes for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the second of which gave New England a four-point lead in the fourth quarter. He also picked up 39 punt return yards on three opportunities in what was his most complete game for the Patriots.
You didn’t hear much about the rookie all game, but for one play — and boy, was it a big one. Ryan jumped in front of Eric Decker on a slant route on the second play of the fourth quarter and made a great play on a Manning pass. Ryan made the interception, setting up the Patriots at the Denver 30-yard line. Three plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone with their first lead of the night. It was a game-changing play by Ryan.
How many coaches in the NFL would have the guts and confidence to kick after winning a coin toss in overtime? Very, very few, and perhaps just one. We know that Bill Belichick wasn’t afraid to do it, as he opted to force Peyton Manning to throw into that 20 mph wind rather than receive the kick in overtime. It was a much-debated decision, but it paid off. It’s hard to argue with success.
The running back’s fumbling issues have reached new levels, with Ridley fumbling on the opening drive of the game. It killed the momentum which the Pats offense had generated, and it immediately turned into points, as Von Miller ran it 60 yards for a defensive touchdown. Ridley didn’t see the field for the rest of the night, and it’s a wonder how the Patriots will approach him going forward.
After Ridley fumbled, the Pats turned to the normally sure-handed Blount for ball security. That didn’t work. Blount coughed up the football late in the first quarter, resulting in a field goal drive for the Broncos. Blount’s night was done after just two carries.
Knowshon Moreno ran for 224 yards on 37 carries, an average of 6.0 yards per carry. That’s otherworldly, and it somehow felt even worse than the numbers show. The Patriots got gashed up the middle, and Denver’s a team not exactly known for its ground game. That’s an issue that should be concerning as the weather gets colder.
Marcus Cannon suffered an injury, and nobody had a great night on the O-line. Brady was sacked three times, once fumbling the ball away in that treacherous first quarter. They recovered to help in that comeback, but they were part of the problem in the team’s falling behind early.