Sunday Night Football was billed as "Manning vs. Brady" but was defined by "Welker vs. Punt." Frigid Foxboro weather and high winds influenced the outcome, and the New England Patriots proved more capable of managing the conditions in their passing game.
Wes Welker has discussed how his indecisiveness cost the Broncos a chance at victory, which was an odd turn of events when Denver made the switch largely because the team felt he was more reliable at returning punts than Trindon Holiday in a key overtime situation. It's irony that wasn't lost on Mile High Report when they looked deeper at the loss.
Disaster struck after the Broncos forced another Patriots punt. Wes Welker, who filled in for the fumble-happy Trindon Holliday on punt returns, was too late to wave off the ball, and it bumped into a full-speed Tony Carter running across the field. The second a Bronco touched the ball, it became a fumble, and Patriots recovered at their own 10-yard line to setup a game-winning field goal.
The New England Patriots completed what they were unable to do against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football -- mount an impressive comeback. Over at Pats Pulpit there's a belief that this was one of the most impressive games in the long-standing rivalry between Brady and Manning.
It was an amazing comeback by Tom Brady, who outplayed Peyton Manning in what will be without a doubt one of the most memorable games of their rivalry. The Patriots were able to produce some good pressure on Peyton Manning, and it clearly rattled him. Of course, Manning didn't throw as much as usual, as the Patriots simply got shredded by Knowshon Moreno and the Broncos running attack. On the majority of snaps, they were simply out-played and pushed off their spots by the Broncos' offensive line. It was a cause for serious concern. But fortunately, the Patriots were able to make opportunistic plays in the second half defensively, and limit Peyton Manning more than any team has this season.
These two sides could meet in the playoffs, giving another chance for a Manning-Brady faceoff. Home field advantage could make a huge difference, but the Broncos will hope the game doesn't come down to a punt.