The New England Patriots stormed back from a 24-0 halftime deficit to beat the Denver Broncos 34-31 in a contest that finished early Monday morning and deep into overtime. It was the biggest comeback of Brady's career.
The win puts the Patriots in prime position for a playoff bye, and gives them a chance to catch the Broncos (or Kansas City) for the No. 1 AFC seed. Brady pulled it off with the team's third straight impressive offensive outing. Brady's struggles of the first half of the season are long gone. He put up 344 yards, three scores, and 31 points after halftime in rough conditions.
In a game that included a little bit of everything, it's a shame the deciding play was a fluke. Patriots punter Ryan Allen kicked one high into the Foxborough night, it took a strange hop, and hit Broncos special teamer Tony Carter. The Patriots recovered, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked the winner.
Perhaps the ending of this narrative-busting game was fitting. It was wacky from the outset, with six fumbles by the Patriots in the first half. There were 11 fumbles and 10 turnovers overall. Fluke plays happen, even in games played by Gods.
Peyton Manning struggled for most of the night, averaging just 4.2 yards-per-pass in cold, windy conditions. But anyone blaming the cold on the result didn't watch Manning dissect the Patriots defense with an incredible drive at the end of regulation to force overtime. Knowshon Moreno, leader of the supposedly pedestrian Broncos running game, finished with 224 yards on 37 carries.
The wind was such a huge factor that Bill Belichick decided to kick the ball off to start overtime.
"It was a strong wind," Belichick said. "We just had to keep them out of the end zone. ... The wind was significant in the game."
That decision would have been debated for months had it not worked out. But the two teams traded punts in overtime, which supported Belichick's thinking. Manning finished the game 11-for-23 for 93 yards throwing into the wind.
At some point, these Manning-Brady classics will come to an end. They won't continue to direct the best two teams in the AFC year after year.
In the meantime, we'll enjoy the rare sensation of knowing that history is unfolding as it's happening. See you in January.The "Around The League Podcast" is now available on iTunes! Click here to listen and subscribe.