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Patriots rally past Broncos
Foxboro, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime, capping the largest comeback in Patriots history and lifting New England to a 34-31 decision over the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
The Broncos built a 24-0 halftime lead thanks in large part to a sloppy first half from the New England offense, but Tom Brady led the Patriots on five straight scoring drives to turn the deficit into a seven-point advantage.
"We didn't give ourselves a chance in the first half with the turnovers," Brady said. "They got a big lead and we found ways to just put one play after the next one and ended up scoring some points."
Peyton Manning responded with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring march that he capped with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, tying the game with 3:06 left in the regulation.
Once in overtime, New England won the toss, but elected to go with the wind rather than take first ball.
"I just felt like the wind would be an advantage if we could keep them out of the end zone on the first drive," New England head coach Bill Belichick said of his decision. "The wind was significant in the game."
The gamble paid off as New England forced a Denver punt to open overtime, but the Patriots punted the ball right back after picking up just one first down.
Manning moved his team across midfield on the ensuing possession, but his 3rd-and-8 pass intended for former Patriot Wes Welker fell incomplete.
Denver's defense then forced a quick New England punt with 3:11 left in overtime, but the short kick caught a piece of Denver's Tony Carter and Nate Ebner of the Patriots pounced on the loose ball at the Denver 13.
Three plays later, Gostkowski sent his game-winning kick through the uprights to help New England (8-3) remain unbeaten at home this season.
Brady finished 34-of-50 passing for 344 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to Julian Edelman, who registered nine catches for 110 yards.
Brandon Bolden rushed for 58 yards and a score on 13 carries for the Patriots, who own a comfortable three-game lead atop the AFC East.
Manning, meanwhile, managed just 150 yards and two scores with an interception on 19-of-36 passing for the Broncos (9-2), who remain tied with Kansas City atop the AFC West after the Chiefs lost to San Diego.
"It's disappointing," Manning admitted. "You had a chance to beat a good team at their place...hated the way that ended."
Knowshon Moreno put forth a valiant effort in defeat, carrying the ball 37 times for a career-high 224 yards and a touchdown.
With his team down 24-0 at the break, Brady opened the second half with an efficient 8-play series that he capped with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Edelman to get the Patriots on the board.
New England linebacker Brandon Spikes recovered a fumble at the Denver 32 to end the Broncos' first drive of the third before Brady hooked up with Rob Gronkowski for a 13-yard pick up on 3rd-and-3 from the Denver 14.
Two plays later, Bolden surged into the end zone for a yard out to bring New England within 24-14 with 5:40 left in the third.
Following a Denver punt, Brady and Edelman hooked up for a 43-yard gain on the second play of New England's 5-play trek that Brady capped with a 6-yard TD toss to Gronkowski to get the Patriots within three late in the third.
New England safety Logan Ryan picked off a Manning pass three plays into Denver's next sequence and Brady needed just three plays to put the Patriots in front, as he found Edelman for a 14-yard touchdown that made it 28-24 New England less than two minutes into the fourth.
After forcing a Denver three-and-out, Brady led New England inside the Denver red zone with a 12-play trek, but the drive stalled at the 13-yard line and the Patriots settled for a 31-yard field goal from Gostkowski to push the margin to 31-24 with 7:37 left in regulation.
Denver dominated the game in the early going, with the defense turning New England over on the team's first three possessions.
The first turnover went for a score, as linebacker Wesley Woodyard met Steven Ridley in the backfield and knocked the ball free. Von Miller scooped up the loose ball and followed a convoy of Denver defenders into the end zone for a 60-yard fumble return touchdown that gave the Broncos a 7-0 lead.
Two plays into New England's next drive, Miller came hard off the edge and stripped Brady, with defensive tackle Terrance Knighton returning the fumble 13 yards to the New England 10 to set up Moreno's 2-yard TD run that made it 14-0 with just under nine minutes left in the first.
Denver safety Duke Ihenacho forced a LeGarrette Blount fumble on the third play of the Patriots' ensuing series, but the Denver drive stalled at the New England 6 and the team settled for a 27-yard field goal from Matt Prater to push the lead to 17-0.
New England turned the ball over on downs at the Denver 30 early in the second and Manning moved the Broncos 70 yards in 11 plays, culminating in a 10-yard TD toss to Jacob Tamme that made it 24-0 with 6:10 left in the half.
Manning fell to 2-10 all-time on the road against New England ... New England had been 0-17 all-time when down by 24-or-more at halftime ... With his 10th TD grab of the season, Thomas became the first player in Broncos history to have at least 10 touchdown catches in consecutive seasons ... Gronkowski caught seven passes for 90 yards.
11/25 01:53:41 ET