FOXBOROUGH MASSACHUSETTS – The final error in a game filled with mistakes helped the New England Patriots to a stunning comeback win.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime after a misplayed punt return by Denver, lifting the Patriots to a 34-31 victory over the Broncos on Sunday night.
“We had some plays in the first half that didn’t go our way so it was nice to get a good bounce and we needed it,” said Tom Brady, who helped the Patriots put together a terrific comeback in the second half.
Denver’s Tony Carter ran into Ryan Allen’s punt after it landed and Nate Ebner recovered for New England at the Broncos 13-yard line. After Brady ran twice to line up the kick, Gostkowski connected for his 21st successful field goal attempt.
The Patriots lost fumbles on their first three possessions, but Brady threw for three touchdowns to lead the Patriots (8-3) from a 24-0 halftime deficit to a 31-24 lead as New England scored on its first five possessions of the second half. Then Peyton Manning threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Demaryius Thomas for the Broncos (9-2), tying it at 31.
“You can’t move the ball when you’re losing it,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “You’ve got to hang onto it.”
But Carter’s gaffe was the third lost fumble for the Broncos in the second half.
“It was really a tale of two halves,” Denver interim coach Jack Del Rio said. “We just had a fluke play at the end.”
The early turnovers helped Denver to a big halftime advantage, but the Patriots took the lead when Brady hit Julian Edelman for a TD early in the fourth. Gostkowski’s 31-yard field goal made it 31-24 midway through the fourth.
“We calmed down. We played each play one play at time,” Edelman said of the difference in the second part of the game. “We didn’t turn the ball over in the second half.”
Packers 26, Vikings 26 (OT): In Green Bay, Wisconsin, backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw for 218 yards and helped spark a rally from a 16-point deficit early in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, but the teams could only muster field goals in overtime and had to settle for a draw.
“It’s an empty feeling. You go out there and didn’t lose the game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “But you feel like you didn’t accomplish what you set out to do.”
Same sentiment in the Vikings’ locker room, where one player held tightly to a hot cup of coffee to warm up following a game that started with minus temperatures.
“I view it as a loss, personally. We gave up a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “I don’t have a sister, but I’m going to say it’s like going to prom with your sister.”
Panthers 20, Dolphins 16: In Miami, make it seven wins in a row for Carolina, and two consecutive late comebacks led by Cam Newton.
The Panthers quarterback converted a fourth-and-10 at his 20 with a completion to keep alive the winning drive, and Carolina went on to score a touchdown with 43 seconds left. Newton hit Greg Olsen with a 1-yard pass to cap the 12-play drive.
Chargers 41, Chiefs 38: In Kansas City, Philip Rivers threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns, the final one a 26-yarder to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds remaining to end San Diego’s three-game losing streak.
Cowboys 24, Giants 21: In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Tony Romo threw two touchdowns and led a drive that set up Dan Bailey’ 35-yard field goal on the final play. Dallas ended the Giants’ four-game winning streak and most of their playoff hopes.
Buccaneers 24, Lions 21: In Detroit, Matthew Stafford’s fourth interception went in and out of Calvin Johnson’s hands to rookie Johnthan Banks inside the Tampa Bay 5 in the final minute, allowing the Buccaneers to hold on for their third straight win.
Rams 42, Bears 21: In St. Louis, Tavon Austin’s 65-yard touchdown run — his fourth straight this season from beyond midfield — jump-started a 21-point first quarter.
Cardinals 40, Colts 11: In Glendale, Arizona, Carson Palmer threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Karlos Dansby returned an interception 22 yards for a score as the Cardinals won their fourth in a row.
Ravens 19, Jets 3: In Baltimore, Joe Flacco threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones and Justin Tucker kicked four field goals as the Ravens shut down New York’s sputtering offense.
Steelers 27, Browns 11: In Cleveland, Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes and beat the Browns again as Pittsburgh moved back into the playoff picture.
Titans 23, Raiders 19: In Oakland, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds remaining to cap a mistake-free performance that put Tennessee back in playoff contention.
Jaguars 13, Texans 6: In Houston, in a matchup of the AFC’s worst teams, the Texans couldn’t stop their losing streak.