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Snap Judgments: Patriots escape with wild 34-31 overtime win against Broncos

11.25.13 at 12:22 am ET
By
Julian Edelman celebrates one of his two touchdown catches Sunday night. (AP)

Julian Edelman celebrates one of his two touchdown catches Sunday night. (AP)

FOXBORO — A furious second-half comeback by the Patriots — capped off by a 31-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with 2:21 left in overtime — allowed New England to pull off the 34-31 win over the Broncos Sunday night at a chilly Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots, who trailed 17-0 at the end of the first quarter and 24-0 at halftime, posted 21 third-quarter points — thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Brady and a 1-yard run from Brandon Bolden — on the way to a 31-24 fourth-quarter lead. After a late drive from Peyton Manning drive knotted the game at 31, both quarterbacks had a chance down the stretch, but neither could convert, forcing the game to overtime.

Neither team was able to punch the ball in through the early going in the extra session, but after a Patriots punt with just over three minutes left in overtime, Denver’s Tony Carter — a former New England defensive back — accidentally touched the ball on a punt return, and the Patriots recovered the fumble. That set the stage for Gostkowski’s game-winner.

Brady ended up going 34-for-50 with 344 yards and three touchdowns, while Julian Edelman had nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski had seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, while Shane Vereen had eight catches for 60 yards.

On the other side of the ball, Peyton Manning finished 19-for-36 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, while Knowshon Moreno had 37 carries for 224 yards and one touchdown, while Wes Welker, in his return to Foxboro, had four catches for 31 yards.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

• The Patriots were able to turn around an absolutely miserable situation, turning a 24-0 deficit into a 27-24 lead in a blink and making fools of plenty of people in the process. The mental toughness, resolve and heart against a team like the Broncos is incredibly impressive, and can’t be discounted when you’re talking about how this team might perform down the stretch.

• Vereen, Brandon Bolden and Rob Gronkowski provided the bulk of the offensive production, particularly in the second half. Vereen was able to do an impressive job moving the chains (he did have a rough drop in the second half), while Bolden took over for Ridley (who was benched in the first half after his fumble) and ended up running for 58 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown.

• There was a moment in the first half where it certainly appeared that the New England defense had reached a tipping point — after all, you can only do so much when your offense keeps turning the ball over and you are going up against the No. 1 offense in the league and you’re without Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Steve Gregory. But the Patriots were able to get some terrific individual work out of some hobbled players like Aqib Talib, Brandon Spikes and Kyle Arrington, all of whom were clearly banged up by gutted their way through the contest but managed to corral Manning and the Denver offense for most of the second half.

• For one of the only times all season, the Patriots were lights out in the third quarter. Entering Sunday night, New England had been outscored in the third quarter this season 65-36. Against the Broncos, the Patriots flipped it around, coming out and putting up 21 against the Broncos while holding the Denver offense scoreless.

WHAT WENT WRONG

• In the early going, just about everything went wrong for the Patriots. New England couldn’t get any sort of offensive traction, thanks in large part of their six first-half fumbles (three of which were lost). The Broncos turned those turnovers into 17 first-half points, and added a touchdown on top of that to make it 24-0 going into the break. You can blame the defense, but you also have to understand that it was consistently put in a bad situation by the offense, which continued to turn the ball over. Regardless, the slow starts have become a real issue for the Patriots — including the 24 points they got in the first half against the Steelers, they have averaged 10 points in the first half of their last three games. You can’t be consistently successful if you continue to dig such a sizable hole right out of the gate.

• Fumbles. The Patriots lost three of their six (SIX) first-half fumbles, with Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brady all coughing up the ball. It was the fourth lost fumble of the year for Ridley and second of the year for Blount — neither of them played after their turnover. It will be interesting to see what happens to Ridley going forward. He’s been dogged with ball security issues over the last year-plus, and if Bolden continues to run like he did in the final three quarters against the Broncos, he could be in danger of losing his job as lead back.

• Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon went down in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.

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