A week after one of the most improbable endings you'll ever see, the Patriots outdid themselves Sunday night against the Broncos -- and this time they came out on top in the last-second finish. After trailing 24-0 to Denver at the half, New England reeled off 31 straight points before eventually winning the game in overtime, 34-31.
It truly was a tale of two halves, with the Pats committing three turnovers in the game's first eight minutes only to watch the Broncos return the favor after the break. The most decisive one came with just minutes to go in the overtime when Tony Carter fumbled a Ryan Allen punt.
(I's officially considered a fumble but Carter, on Denver's punt return team, was trying to block, lost sight of where he was on the field, and was inadvertently struck by Allen's punt.)
New England recovered and several plays later, kicker Stephen Gostkowski converted the game-winner.
The matchup was billed as Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, but on this night Brady was the better quarterback. He finished 34-of-50 for 344 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning, meanwhile, was 19-of-36 for 150 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
"[We played] a terrible half of football,'' Brady said after the game. "I don't even know what you coach at that point.''
But that's why Bill Belichick is a future Hall of Famer and the rest of us are not.
But cornerback Aqib Talib, who shut down DeMaryius Thomas a week after struggling to contain Steve Smith, put it in simpler terms.
"It's not like we're going to quit after 30 minutes,'' he said. "You keep fighting, keep clawing, keep scratching, keep trying to get back in it. We're grown men. We're not going to pout about it, cry about it."
One of the keys to the comeback was Julian Edelman, the wide receiver and punt returner who led the team with nine catches for 110 yards.
“Julian did a great job,” Belichick said. “First of all, he did a good job of handling the ball, especially in the third and fourth quarter there. Made a couple good runs with the ball in his hands, also got open, caught the ball. The end route he got there gave us the field position in the overtime, it was a big play.”
Brady added: “He’s been so dependable and consistent all year for our team. He’s been the one veteran player on our offense that’s been in there and has been around. He always does a great job. He’s tough, smart, disciplined. It’s fun to see him do well because he deserves it.”
As it stands, New England moves to 8-3 in the AFC East while Denver remains in first place in the AFC West thanks to the Chiefs losing at home the Chargers. Both teams are the top two seeds in the division and it's reasonable to think that Sunday's game is a preview of what we'll see again in January.