BOSTON (CBS) – The Patriots and the Broncos played one of the best games of the year on Sunday night.

It had everything; ups and downs, mother nature and, of course, overtime. We all know the outcome by now. Here are your gold stars and penalty flags.

The Gold Stars

– Tom Brady gets a gold star. This one is easy. It was billed as Manning vs. Brady and when the chips were down, Tom Brady came through. He came out in the third quarter and cut the ball through the wind and got the Pats back into the game. The question of whether you take Tom or Peyton has been answered. Brady is such a gamer. His biggest quality is he never feels he’s out of it and an even bigger quality is that everybody he plays with believes he can get the job done. Brady gets a huge gold star.

– Julian Edelman gets a gold star. Lost in the Wes Welker/Danny Amendola mix was that Edelman was the first person to replace Welker. When the chips were down, it was Edelman who had the best game; nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. That was just for starters. What Edelman did in overtime even more important. He caught every punt and kept the Pats in the game. He was sure-handed and in the end, that was the most important thing.

– Mother nature gets a gold star. It was cold and the wind chill was biting. Basically everything that Peyton Manning can’t stand. Again he proved that he’s a warm-weather, dome quarterback. When mother nature froze the scoreboard and the wind got blowing, Manning couldn’t contend.

Penalty Flags

– Stevan Ridley gets a huge penalty flag. The ability to take the air out of the building is something that Stevan Ridley has become a master of. That’s three games in a row that he’s fumbled, and two of his fumbles this season have been taken back for a touchdown. Stevan has got to figure something out because right now, he’s losing trust with his teammates. He’s also way too tough on himself after bad things happen. The Pats need him to carry the rock, and these last couple of games may make or break his future here in New England.

– Dont’a Hightower gets a penalty flag. I actually wish I knew what was going on with Hightower. He was confident that he could take over for Jerod Mayo and that hasn’t happened. They took away the green dot from him and it may have hurt his confidence. On Sunday, his effort was low and they replaced him with Dane Fletcher and rookie Jamie Collins. Both of those guys did what Hightower was trying to do. This could just be a sophomore year rough patch for Hightower, so we’ll have to see if he comes out on the other side.

Let’s give a false start penalty flag to some of the fans. I know it was cold and the Pats were playing poorly, so I can only blame the fans a little for leaving. Who knows, if I wasn’t working, I may have left also. Here’s the thing though. We as football fans and reporters only have a couple more years of seeing Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and there may not be many times that they play each other. Both quarterbacks are Hall of Famers and neither wants to be the first to cave on his career. To watch them go up against one another is awesome, so if you bought a ticket to that game, honestly you can not leave.

Follow Levan Reid on Twitter @LevanReid.



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