|11.25.13 at 10:37 am ET|
The Patriots trailed 24-0 at the midway point but rallied in the second half, then capitalized on a Broncos turnover late in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.
“It was a great win,” Brady said. “Anyone couldn’t really have expected the way that one would go. It was pretty sweet.
“We really got off to such a poor start and then stormed back, and then kind of played a little bit of defensive football there in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and got a good break there at the end. It was a great team win, everybody contributed. We were a pretty mentally tough team, and that’s what it took last night. We’ll enjoy it, then we’ve got to get back to work, ’cause that’s the way it is in the NFL.”
While the Patriots were being dominated on the scoreboard in the first half, Brady said the team didn’t lose confidence, because Denver’s points were the result of Patriots mistakes.
“We had 200 yards of offense at halftime. So it wasn’t like we had 70 yards of offense and we weren’t doing anything,” Brady said. “You make those critical errors like fumbling the ball and putting the ball on the ground like we did, and we’re not going to score a lot of points. We knew if we took better care of the ball that we’d have a better chance.
“Weather played a factor. We punted to them before halftime and it ended up being a turnover; we got it, we didn’t do anything anything with it. Then late there in the game, just tough to field some of those plays and we got a few bounces. That was really a great way to win the game.
“It was a tough battle, it was two good football teams. It obviously could have gone either way, but I’m glad it went our way.”
Brady said the team did not overreact at halftime, nor were there a lot of tweaks that had to be made to the game plan.
“I think we always take our cue from coach [Bill] Belichick as a team,” Brady said. “There wasn’t much to be said, truthfully, because we had done nothing. It wasn’t like there was a bunch of adjustments. We kind of thought the game — they played the game the way that we thought they would play it, and we just weren’t doing anything to execute.
“We just talked about making some good plays and seeing if that could turn into something. It turned into one touchdown, then it tuned into two touchdowns, then in turned into a field goal, it was another touchdown. We got the ball rolling, and that’s what we needed at that point.”
|11.25.13 at 9:34 am ET|
|11.25.13 at 7:29 am ET|
With Thanksgiving looming at the final quarter of the regular season coming up quickly, here’s a look at the rapidly-developing playoff picture and how it all relates to the Patriots.
1. Broncos (9-2). Combined record of remaining opponents: 25-30
The Broncos appear to be in pretty good shape to secure one of the top two seeds in the AFC playoff race, but hit a potential pothole on the race to the No. 1 seed with a 34-31 overtime loss to the Patriots in New England Sunday night. Their toughest test the rest of the way figures to be next week when they travel to meet the Chiefs in Kansas City. Given the weak schedule they have the rest of the way — no teams even at .500 — a win should just about assure them one of the top two spots. A loss (and a New England win over Houston) could push the Patriots into the top spot, and create some uncertainty as it relates to the Chiefs.
2. Patriots (8-3). Combined record of remaining opponents: 20-35
New England took a big leap forward with Sunday’s win over the Broncos, and stand poised to finish strong, as the rest of its schedule is littered with the likes of Cleveland, Buffalo and Houston. The one game that could cause them trouble the rest of the way is in Baltimore — while the defending Super Bowl champs aren’t what they were at the start of the season, they’re still a proud bunch who could cause some trouble down the stretch. A road game in Miami could also be troublesome.
3. Colts (7-4). Combined record of remaining opponents: 25-30
Indy has posted some impressive wins over the course of their first 11 games, but they have an ugly loss to match almost all of those victories. Not sure I’d put the defeat at the hands of the Cards on Sunday in that category, but it certainly didn’t do them any favors, as they lost the inside track on the No. 2 seed with the loss. The Colts have two really tough games left on their schedule, with road dates at the Bengals and Chiefs. (They should also get a chance to fatten up at the expense of the Texans and Jags, two two-win teams left on their slate.) Indy has taken big steps forward over the course of the season, but it has to display more consistency down the stretch and into the postseason if it wants to be taken seriously as a title contender in January.
4. Bengals (7-4). Combined record of remaining opponents: 24-30-1
The wild card in the AFC playoff chase. They have had a dominant defense at times, and have also gotten some excellent play out of their skill position players, but they’ve also gotten uneven play out of their quarterback. Cincy also has games left against the Chargers, Steelers and Ravens, three teams sitting at 5-6 that could end up going either way down the stretch. At this point in the season, this is a team with the most boom-bust potential of the group: The Bengals could still somehow find their way into the No. 1 spot, or they could end up out of the playoff altogether. A team to watch.
5. Chiefs (9-2). Combined record of remaining opponents: 28-26
Life is unfair. Kansas City shot to a 9-0 mark, but has lost its last two games, and has the toughest remaining schedule of any of the teams currently in the postseason picture with games against the Broncos, Colts and the Chargers. (The San Diego game, the regular-season finale, isn’t the slam dunk everyone thought it might be a few weeks ago after the Chargers went into KC Sunday and knocked off the Chiefs.) Injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali on Sunday will be a setback for the defense, and it will be interesting to see how they respond. We’ll know more about their mental toughness after next week’s home game against the Broncos.
6. Titans (5-6). Combine record of remaining opponents: 27-28
Hey, someone has to get that sixth seed. Right now, the Titans would claim that final playoff spot, but they’re one of five teams sitting at 5-6, and considering the rest of the field, we’re not so sure that Tennessee is such a safe bet to be the team that rounds out the playoff picture. The Titans have to fight off the Steelers, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Dolphins, all of whom are a game below .500 with five weeks left on the schedule. Based on what happened Sunday, you have to consider Baltimore (their opponents currently sit at 28-26-1 on the year) as a legitimate contender for that final spot, while San Diego’s schedule the rest of the way (their opponents have a 33-22 mark, and including the Bengals, Broncos and Chiefs) might be too much for them to handle. Meanwhile, the Jets and Steelers have struggled to achieve consistency throughout the season.
|11.25.13 at 6:27 am ET|
Here’s a quick rundown of what some NFL analysts were saying about the Patriots before and after Sunday’s game against the Broncos.
Marshall Faulk on NFL Network following the game: ‘Peyton Manning’s passes were contested [by defenders] and Brady was throwing to open guys; [those were] totally different [situations].”
Scott Pioli on the Patriots on NBC before the game and what they need to do to win: ‘First thing they are going to have to do is slow down this illegal pick play that they (Broncos) have. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Belichick and his assistant Ernie Adams are in there talking to the officials right now, and talking to them about looking out for this pick play because the offense under Peyton Manning is a little bit different than it used to be. He is throwing more shorter passes. He’s doing a lot of things underneath. So, I think they will be trying to slow those things down.’
Pioli on if all the pick plays are illegal: ‘There’s a lot that are definitely illegal that aren’t being called.’
NBC’s Cris Collinsworth on the Patriots before the game: ‘They can do it because they know how to do it legally. They are very good at it and very seldom do they see physical contact. It’s more just sort of rubbing as they go by.’
Pioli on why Patriots didn’t re-sign Welker, speaking prior to the game: ‘I can only speculate, but my understanding would be that our business model, when I was here, was that you don’t want to pay in the future for past performance. Wes had done some great things, but he’s also getting a little bit older, and with his style of play, his chance of being durable over the years; there’s probably not a lot of longevity when you play as hard and as tough as he does, and as physical as he does.’
NBC’s Tony Dungy on Patriots-Broncos before the game: ‘It’s going to come down to who performs in the red zone.’
Pioli on the Patriots, before the game: ‘It’s difficult sometimes for people to have close relationships and friendships when they are this high a level of competitors, but a lot of that changed when Tom Brady was hurt. The first call he got, or one of the first calls he got, was from Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning called several times after that. It kind of changed Tommy’s thoughts toward Peyton. And then when Peyton got hurt, Tommy reached out to him. The injury and the realization that their football mortality someday would end really changed the two and how they approach one another. They started sharing more information. And Tommy told me this week that one of the most interesting things was when Peyton Manning was getting ready to make a decision as to who he was going to sign with, he reached out to Tommy and wanted to exchange information, and he wanted to know what Tom thought would be a good idea for him to do. Amazing how this relationship has evolved over the years from two top competitors.’
Dungy on the Brady-Manning relationship, before the game: ‘I can’t tell you how many times Peyton would come in on Tuesday and tell me, ‘Yeah, I talked to Tom and he says we can get this against this defense. We just played these guys; you can run this play on them.’ So, they did share a lot of information.’
ESPN’s Tom Jackson on Wes Welker, before the game: ‘He had 672 catches contributed over a period of years when they had tremendous success. I believe he would like to play really well tonight.’
ESPN’s Cris Carter on Welker, before the game: ‘The other veterans who left New England, the big difference was they had Super Bowl championships. Wes does not have that Super Bowl championship, so he’s more motivated about getting that championship than he is revenge.’
ESPN’s Mike Ditka, before the game, speaking about Welker and the Patriots: ‘There’s no loyalty in football guys. Get over it. When it’s time to go, you’re going to go. When it’s time to stay, you’ll stay. He had his time for him to go. They made a decision.’
ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson on Welker before the game: ‘He’ll be very close to getting that Super Bowl ring in Denver. He can’t let the emotions of going back to Foxboro get in his head because the one thing I do know is Bill Belichick is going to spend plenty of time trying to take him out of the game in particular because he does not want to see him succeed.’
Johnson on the Patriots model, before the game: ‘You’d like to see New England make more of a financial commitment to players that have been in the organization that helped them win football games, but that’s not the way this game works.’
Ditka on the Patriots model, before the game: ‘Same thing happened with the 49ers. Bill Walsh got rid of a lot of guys. ‘¦ They could still play but one or two years later they weren’t going to be the same players.’
|11.25.13 at 3:47 am ET|
FOXBORO ‘ Going into Sunday night’s game against Peyton Manning and the explosive Denver offense, much of the talk was about if the Patriots would be able to stop the Broncos passing attack with a depleted defense, especially in the secondary.
The Patriots already were without four starters on defense, and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Alfonso Dennard were banged up. Talib returned last week against Carolina after missing a month with a hip injury but didn’t look the same as he did earlier in the year, and Dennard had minor surgery on his meniscus just over a week ago, forcing him to miss the Carolina game. Both players were listed as questionable and were game-time decisions, but they did play and were part of a secondary that played a major role in the Patriots’ 34-31 overtime win.
The Broncos entered Sunday averaging an NFL-best 350.4 passing yards per game, but that didn’t mean anything to the Patriots, as they limited Manning to 150 yards on 19-of-36 passing with two touchdown passes and forced a crucial interception in the second half. It was Manning’s fewest passing yards as a member of the Broncos.
‘They’re a tough offense to play against. It’s hard to hold them down yardage wise, hold them down point-wise, but I thought we hung in there and battled,’ coach Bill Belichick said. ‘I thought our corners, they deserve a ton of credit. Talib, [Kyle] Arrington, Alfonso, they’re all, nobody is 100 percent in that locker room, they’re all banged up, they fought through it, just wanted to go out there and complete. Devin [McCourty], Duron [Harmon], then we have Marquice [Cole] at the end, jumped in there, Logan Ryan. Those guys, they just went out there and competed against a great group of receivers.’
The corners had challenging matchups, as Arrington lined up across from Wes Welker in the slot and Talib shadowed Demaryius Thomas the entire night. Arrington held Welker to just four catches for 31 yards, while Thomas finished with four receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown but didn’t make his first catch until the fourth quarter.
‘We just tried to go out and make plays,’ Talib said. ‘We tried to take it one play at a time, man. We take it from practice to the game, just one play at a time. [If you] mess up, just forget about it, on to the next play. That’s just how we try to play.’
|11.25.13 at 3:30 am ET|
FOXBORO — More than a few onlookers were scratching their heads when Bill Belichick won the coin toss to start overtime and actually chose to give the ball to the most potent offense in football.
Now, this is certainly no surprise to start a game as Belichick has often chosen to defer to the second half to start a game. But when you’re talking about giving it to Peyton Manning when a touchdown would end the game, it’s a gamble.
But it was a calculated gamble that paid off when Wes Welker couldn’t read the wind late in overtime and didn’t catch a punt. Instead, he allowed up-man Tony Carter to touch the ball after it hit the ground. That set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 31-yard game-winner with 1:56 left in overtime, giving the Patriots an unbelievable 34-31 win.
All of that wouldn’t have been possible if the Patriots defense didn’t come up big and stop Manning on the first drive. But after the Broncos reached the Patriots 45, they self-destructed and moved backwards on an Eric Decker pass interference call.
The Broncos were forced to punt. Chalk one up to Belichick. His decision to take the wind, howling out of the north all game long at 25 MPH on a brutally cold night, went from unorthodox to uncanny.
“The wind, it was a strong wind,” Belichick said. “We just had to keep the out of the end zone, obviously. I just felt like the wind would be an advantage if we could keep them out of the end zone on that first drive. We were able to do that. The wind was significant in the game, it was definitely significant.”
Was Peyton Manning surprised Belichick gave him the ball to start overtime?
“No. That’s what they do sometimes,” Manning said.
Rob Gronkowski was happy with the decision.
‘Great decision,” Gronkowski beamed. “He is our coach [and] we’re behind him with everything, especially Coach Belichick. Whatever he has, we’re behind him. So it was a great call because we won.”
|11.25.13 at 2:56 am ET|
FOXBORO — The fumble crisis is getting out of control for Stevan Ridley. He knows full well he has to find a way to stop fumbling – and soon – if he wants to hold onto his job as lead running back with the Patriots. He admitted as much after his latest calamity Sunday night.
On the Patriots first drive of the night, with the Patriots driving into Broncos territory, Ridley lost his fourth fumble of the season. Making matters worse, when Wesley Woodyard popped his helmet on the ball, the ball flew out and Von Miller was on the spot to scoop it up and rumble 60 yards for the first score of the game.
The Patriots would lose two more fumbles in the quarter and fall behind 17-0 after 15 minutes and 24-0 at the half. But it was Ridley’s fumble that would set the ill tone.
‘It’s really about the team and how they came back from this deficit tonight,” Ridley said afterward. “We were down 24 points and they fought back. For me, I think my team deserves better than what I’m doing out there and putting on the field. It’s been consecutive weeks with putting the ball on the ground and, as a running back, you can’t do that. I’ve said that multiple times. I work too hard to make the small mistakes and I keep setting myself back and setting this team back.
“The offense depends on me and to go out there and get the job done and when I put the ball on the ground they have no option but to take me out and it’s sickening, honestly, I’m frustrated, but it’s part of the game. I think that as a player you’re going to have your ups and your downs, but the main thing is you just have to stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize at the end of the day. I’m not going to get too far down. I’m going to put a little more pressure on myself to go out there and practice and try to change up some things because I can’t keep doing this and it’s sickening.’
LeGarrette Blount also lost a fumble in the first half as the Patriots scrambled for someone reliable to carry the ball. Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen stepped up and combined for 23 carries and 89 yards.
‘It shows the strength of our run,” Ridley said. “We’ve been talking about that since early in camp and for us, we need to have players step up when somebody goes down, so we did some things and shot ourselves in the foot and they did [Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen] exactly what I expected them to do. If they have to go with another guy and those guys stepped up and got it done and that’s what a team is about. And that’s what we have here is two guys that stepped in and played the role exactly how they’re supposed to.’
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