Never Say Never Moment of the Week: Another Look  

GMC  

Tom Brady once again gets the best of Peyton Manning

  • By Jim Reineking NFL.com
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This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 12, the eventful/chilly evening at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where the local team's quarterback pulled out yet another win over a longtime rival passer in front of a national television audience. The New England Patriots' comeback win over the Denver Broncos, as well as the San Diego Chargers' shocking win over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys' last-second triumph over the New York Giants, are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 12.

The Patriots' Tom Brady and the Broncos' Peyton Manning faced off for the 14th time (12 of those matchups came when Manning was with the Indianapolis Colts, continually battling the Patriots for AFC excellence and usually coming out on the wrong end of that). This time, it appeared Manning's Broncos were about to boat race the Patriots, storming out to a 24-point lead thanks to three turnovers by the Pats. The showdown between two future Pro Football Hall of Fame signal callers turned into a classic that was ultimately decided -- unfittingly -- by special teams play. Before an unfortunate bounce for the Broncos, Brady executed a thrilling comeback, bringing the Patriots back from the brink of a blowout to deliver an overtime thriller.

Here are the key moments before the moment:

Patriots' first possession ends with Broncos touchdown

The play: Patriots running back Stevan Ridley fumbled and Broncos linebacker Von Miller recovered and returned the gift 60 yards for a Denver touchdown.

The aftermath: This was the third consecutive game in which Ridley lost a fumble. It was also the sixth lost fumble for Ridley since the start of last season, the most for any running back in the NFL. For Miller, this wouldn't be the first dramatic play delivered by the linebacker.

Miller strikes again

The play: On the Patriots' next possesssion, Brady is strip-sacked by Miller and the Broncos recover the ball in excellent field position for another score.

The aftermath: Miller's play gave the Broncos possession at the Patriots' 10-yard line. Two plays later, running back Knowshon Moreno scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give Denver a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. Three plays later, the Broncos forced another Patriots fumble. This time, running back LaGarrette Blount ditched the ball. The third consecutive Patriots possession that ended with a turnover allowed the Broncos to kick a field goal to go up 17-0.

The rout appears on in Foxborough

The play: Manning hits tight end Jacob Tamme for a 10-yard touchdown that puts the Broncos up 24-0 with six minutes left in the first half.

The aftermath: The Broncos went into halftime with a healthy 24-0 lead, and appeared to be well on their way to a convincing win. The Patriots' chances of victory appeared very slim; NFL teams are 6-486 in the last 50 years when trailing by 24 or more points at halftime. The Patriots had never come back from a deficit as great as 24 points. The biggest comeback in the Bill Belichick-Brady era was 21 points (executed twice, in 2002 against the Chicago Bears and again in 2012 against the Buffalo Bills). The largest comeback victory in Patriots history came in 1984, when the team rallied from 23 down behind two touchdown passes from Tony Eason and two touchdown runs by Mosi Tatupu to defeat the Seattle Seahawks.

Patriots finally get on the scoreboard

The play: Brady connected with receiver Julian Edelman for a 5-yard touchdown play to trim Denver's lead to 24-7.

The aftermath: Brady took the opening possession of the second half 80 yards in eight plays and in less than four minutes. This was the first of four consecutive possessions that resulted in touchdowns for the Patriots, who quickly turned a 24-0 deficit into a 28-24 lead. After Edelman's score, running back Brandon Bolden scored on a 1-yard run, Brady hit tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 6-yard touchdown play and Brady found Edelman again for the go-ahead score, an electrifying 14-yard touchdown play.

Broncos recover to force overtime

The play: Manning and receiver Demaryius Thomas hook up for an 11-yard score that knotted the game at 31-31 late in the fourth quarter.

The aftermath: After Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 31-24 lead, Manning directed a 10-play, 80-yard drive for the game-tying score. The score meant that the Broncos would post their 16th consecutive game with 25 of more points, the most in NFL history.

The moment

The play: The Patriots' second possession of overtime resulted in another punt. This time, mayhem ensued. The Broncos' Tony Carter ran into the punt of Ryan Allen after it bounced. Nate Ebner recovered for the Patriots at the Broncos' 13-yard line.

The aftermath: Just when it appeared as if a second game in Week 12 would end in a tie, a special-teams gaffe deliverd a golden opportunity for a team to secure a wild win. Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal with two minutes remaining in overtime to get the win. The result gave Brady his 10th win in 14 matchups against Manning (only three pairs of Hall of Fame quarterback played against each other more: Jim Kelly vs. Dan Marino, 21; Bart Starr vs. Johnny Unitas, 16; Bobby Layne vs. Norm Van Brocklin, 15).

Manning had his worst game of the season (19-of-36 passing for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception), while Brady had one of his best (34-of-50 passing for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions). This is not unusual if you've been following this duel over the years.

Brady and the Patriots also recovered nicely from a disappointing loss on "Monday Night Football" in Week 11 -- not to mention that massive first-half deficit. Brady now is 33-8 when coming off a loss, the highest winning percentage in NFL history. This epic comeback win, however, could set up a juicy storyline should Brady and Manning once again meet in the playoffs.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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