Cut, bruised, bleeding and bone tired, the New England Patriots let two 14-point leads slip through their grasps, and lost 30-24 in overtime to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver Sunday night.
It took the Patriots all but 19 minutes and 30 seconds to capture a 14-0 lead over the Broncos, after capitalizing on short field position, and taking advantage of the Broncos’ early miscues. It took the Broncos 58 minutes and 51 seconds to take their first lead of the night. It took the Broncos 62 minutes and 28 seconds to literally run away from the Patriots with an improbable comeback win.
Point to Tom Brady’s 51-yard completion to receiver Keyshawn Martin on 3rd and 11 in the fourth quarter was negated by a holding on rookie guard Tre Jackson as reasons for the loss. Or the two failed fumble recoveries, or the dropped interception by Patrick Chung with 1:56 remaining in regulation.
The pendulum of momentum swung towards the Broncos several times throughout the night. Especially on the offensive interference call on Rob Gronkowski, that negated his would-be 10-yard conversion on third-and-five, with five minutes remaining. Or the muffed point that cut the second 14-point deficit in half after Patriots rookie receiver Chris Harper failed to secure a punt that was recovered by the Broncos deep in Patriots territory. The recovery set up a score early in the fourth quarter. The defensive holding penalty on Patrick Chung on Demaryius Thomas negated an eight-yard sack by Alan Branch and set up the Broncos touchdown to take the 24-21 lead with 1:09 remaining.
Brady led the depleted Patriots 51-yards to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 47-yard game-tying field goal to force overtime in heavy snowfall, despite the concerning number of injuries to key players. However, the Patriots faced a tougher challenge than they could have prepared for in overtime. Drive 80 yards down field without Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, and Dion Lewis against the No. 1 defense in the NFL on the road in a tough environment. It proved to be too much adversity to handle for the team so accustomed to handling adversity in the last 15 years.
Bend but don’t break? The Patriots bent, broke, collapsed, crumbled, and fumbled their chances on both sides of the ball, and failed to keep their hopes for a perfect season alive. Brady fell to 9-3 in the regular season in overtime games, 2-6 on the road at Sports Authority Field, and 10-1 this season despite tying Dan Marino for third all-time on the NFL’s touchdown passing leaders with 420.
Brady finished 23-42 for 280 yards and three touchdowns but was also the victim of the unrelenting Broncos’ pass rush who have recorded a league-leading 37 sacks. Brady was pressured, hurried, battered and frustrated repeatedly. Finishing 2-13 on third down on the road against a team that you had two 14-point leads over is sure enough to cause frustration, even for the leading candidate for his third MVP award. Penalties, miscues, turnovers.
The Patriots broke down and collapsed completely as C.J. Anderson took a handoff 48-yards for the dramatic game-winning touchdown in overtime. Entering the game, the Patriots were top-five in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 88.8 yards per game, but were gashed for 179 yards on 39 attempts, including 15 rushes for 113 yards and two touchdowns to Anderson.
It took 57 minutes and 30 seconds for Demaryius Thomas who had been held catch less on 12 targets to record his first and only catch of the night, and he made it count. It was a 36-yard strike with 2:30 remaining in regulation over cornerback Logan Ryan whose 5’11 frame was no match for the 6’3” veteran receiver.
Osweiler completed 23 of 42 for 270 yards, one touchdown and one interception in just his second career NFL start. The Patriots defense, who had been praised recently, allowed 30 points, and 433 yards to a team without Peyton Manning at the helm and saw their No. 1 points per game defensive ranking diminish significantly.
This was arguably their ugliest loss since the 26-21 Week 13 loss against the Green Bay Packers last season.