With less than two minutes to go in regulation, Brock Osweiler got the Broncos down to the 8-yard line after a beautiful rainbow pass to Emmanuel Sanders. Three plays later, Osweiler hit Andre Caldwell for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 left in the game. However, Tom Brady marched the Patriots back down into field goal range, and Stephen Gostowski hit a 47-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
The Broncos forced a quick three-and-out in the extra frame and C.J. Anderson took it home, ripping off a 48-yard touchdown to send the Patriots to 10-1.
The Patriots got off to a fast start when Rob Gronkowski did what Gronkowski does best, which was beat the coverage and walk in for an easy 23-yard touchdown. The Broncos' defense buckled down after that, but the unit the unit suffered more losses when safety T.J. Ward and defensive lineman Sylvester Williams were both carted off the field with ankle injuries.
The game took a big swing in the second quarter when star defensive lineman Chandler Jones came down with a tip drill interception near the line of scrimmage. Brady later cashed in on the turnover with a flawless pass to Scott Chandler in the corner of the end zone, making it 14-0 Patriots.
With snow starting to cover the field, the Broncos finally got on the board late in the second quarter when Ronnie Hillman broke free for a 19-yard score. The Patriots were content to run out the clock on their next drive and went into halftime with the 14-7 lead.
Almost nothing of note happened in the third quarter, but it took only 10 seconds of the fourth quarter for the Patriots to extend their lead, when Brandon Bolden took a wheel route 63 yards to the end zone. The Broncos got a break when Chris Harper muffed a punt, giving them prime field position inside the Patriots' 40-yard line. Four plays later, Anderson dove into the end zone after a 15-yard run to cut New England's lead to seven points.
The Broncos had a chance to tie the game from the 3-yard line with six minutes to go, but opted for the easy field goal instead, making it 21-17 in favor of New England. Denver got the ball back with just over two minutes left to make the go-ahead drive.
3 things we learned
1. Denver stuck to its game plan and it worked
The Broncos went into this game with a clear plan -- run the dang ball. For the most part they accomplished that, with Anderson and Hillman combining for 162 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. When it was time to go to the air, New England spent most of the game in lockdown mode -- cornerback Logan Ryan nearly erased Demaryius Thomas, who had just one catch on 11 targets.
However, when the chips were down, Osweiler did enough to lead the comeback drive and give the Broncos a brief lead before going to overtime. It was ultimately the running game that won it for Denver, with Anderson scoring the walkoff touchdown.
2.Rob Gronkowski could be one too many injuries
Near the end of regulation, Gronkowski took a shot the knee and was carted off the field. The Patriots immediately ruled him out for the game, suggesting a potentially serious injury. With Dion Lewis done for the season, Julian Edelman out until at least the playoffs and Danny Amendola missing a couple of weeks, the Patriots are dangerously low on offensive weapons. Brady has been a master of doing more with less, but Gronk's absence could be too much to overcome if he has to miss any extended time.
3. Snow football!
The forecast in the Denver area called for 1-3 inches of snow on Sunday night, and Mother Nature did not disappoint. It actually didn't start snowing until the game began, but it quickly came down heavy, and by the second quarter the field was already starting to get white. When the third quarter began, the snow cover was thick enough that NBC busted out its CGI yard markers. Needless to say, this made the game a delight to watch on television.
Everybody loves snow football, and prime time snow football is always worth getting excited about.
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