Tom Brady produced the greatest comeback triumph of his NFL career Sunday, rallying the New England Patriots from a 24-point deficit to a 34-31 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos.
On a cold and windy night, Brady threw three touchdown passes and eclipsed his and New England’s best prior win rallies – 21-point comebacks to beat Chicago in 2002 and Buffalo in 2011 – to lift the Patriots to 8-3 while the Broncos fell to 9-2.
Three-time Super Bowl champion Brady improved to 10-4 in games against Denver’s Peyton Manning, his biggest rival among the NFL’s top active quarterbacks.
The final turning point came on a New England punt when the ball bounced into Denver return blocker Tony Carter and the Patriots recovered the loose ball to take over at the Denver 18-yard line.
That set up a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 1:56 to play in the extra 15-minute period to win for the host Patriots.
“We had some plays that didn’t go our way in the first half. I’m glad we got a bounce that went our way for once,” said Brady. “It was a heck of a win. We really needed it.”
Brady, who completed 34-of-50 passes for 344 yards, improved to 9-2 in overtime games while Manning, who completed 19-of-36 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns, fell to 3-4 in overtime games.
“He’s a great player and they have a good team,” Brady said. “We’ve got a lot of football left to play this season. It’s just the beginning.”
Denver defender Von Miller returned a Stevan Ridley fumble 60 yards for a touchdown just 5:06 into the game and forced a Brady fumble that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Knowshon Moreno, who ran for 224 total yards on 37 carries.
New England’s LeGarrette Blount fumbled on the next Patriots possession and Denver’s Danny Trevathan recovered, setting up Matt Prater’s 27-yard field goal, and Manning had a 10-yard touchdown toss to Jacob Tamme to put Denver ahead 24-0 at half-time.
Brady capped an eight-play, 80-yard march to open the third quarter with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman and New England pulled within 24-14 on Brandon Bolden’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Brady then made a 5-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski with 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Logan Ryan intercepted a Manning pass at the Denver 30-yard line on the next Broncos possession and Brady needed only three plays to connect with Edelman on a 14-yard touchdown pass that gave New England a 28-24 lead.
Gostkowski added a 31-yard field goal for the Patriots, but Manning led the Broncos back, flipping an 11-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas to force overtime.
OTHER SUNDAY RESULTS
Cowboys 24, Giants 21
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo connected with tight end Jason Witten on two touchdown passes and kicker Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal on the final play broke a 21-21 tie to give the Cowboys a 24-21 win over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
The Cowboys improved to 6-5 and their win over the Giants (4-7) snapped New York’s four-game winning streak.
It also severely hurt the Giants’ chances of climbing out of the hole they dug for themselves with their 0-6 start to the season.
Cardinals 40, Colts 11
The Arizona Cardinals were all smiles after a 40-11 victory over the Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Cardinals (7-4), who are now fully engaged in the play-off conversation for one of the two NFC wild-card positions.
Arizona limited quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offence to just 239 total yards.
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer completed 26 of 37 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns, both of them to Larry Fitzgerald in the first half when the Cardinals built a 27-3 lead.
Titans 23, Raiders 19
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kendall Wright with 10 seconds left to play, lifting the Tennessee Titans to a 23-19 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
The Titans (5-6) moved into a six-way tie for the AFC’s second wild-card berth. The Raiders (4-7) lost for the third time in four games.
Chargers 41, Chiefs 38
Philip Rivers connected with wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu for a 26-yard touchdown with 24 seconds to play that gave the San Diego Chargers a 41-38 upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
The winning touchdown came just 58 seconds after the Chiefs had gone ahead on a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Smith to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe with one minute, 22 seconds to play.
San Diego is now 5-6 on the season, while the Chiefs are 9-2 and facing a huge rematch next week against the Denver Broncos.
Packers 26, Vikings 26 (tie)
Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn replaced ineffective Scott Tolzien and led the Packers to two touchdowns and a field goal on three consecutive possessions to force overtime, but the Packers and Vikings battled to a 26-26 tie at Lambeau Field.
The tie snapped the Packers’ three-game losing streak. At 5-5-1, they’re still alive in the NFC North after Detroit lost at home to Tampa Bay and Chicago was trounced at Chicago.
The Lions and Bears are 6-5, and the Lions host the Packers on Thanksgiving Day.
Buccaneers 24, Lions 21
Mike Glennon threw two touchdown passes to Tiquan Underwood, including the go-ahead 85-yard score, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset the turnover-prone Detroit Lions 24-21 at Ford Field.
Glennon, the Buccaneers’ rookie quarterback, had 247 yards passing and cornerback Leonard Johnson returned one of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s four interceptions for another score as the Bucs (3-8) won their third straight after starting the season 0-8.
Detroit committed five turnovers while falling to 6-5. Stafford threw three touchdown passes and wide receiver Nate Burleson, who missed the previous seven games with a broken forearm suffered during an auto accident, caught seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Steelers 27, Browns 11
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes and the Pittsburgh Steelers won their third straight game to stay in the AFC play-off race by beating the Cleveland Browns 27-11.
The Steelers are 5-6 after a 0-4 start. The Browns have lost five of six games and are 4-7.
The Browns lost more than a football game - starting quarterback Jason Campbell was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a concussion on a strip sack by cornerback William Gay.
Ravens 19, Jets 3
Jacoby Jones’ first 100-yard receiving day with the Ravens included a 67-yard touchdown and Justin Tucker kicked four field goals as the Baltimore handed the New York Jets a 19-3 loss.
Joe Flacco completed 17 of 26 passes for 273 yards with one interception and the long toss to Jones for the Ravens (5-6), winners of eight straight over the Jets (5-6).
Jones caught four passes for 103 yards as the Ravens scored the final 19 points. Three of Tucker’s field goals came in the first half.
Jaguars 13, Texans 6
The Jacksonville Jaguars recorded consecutive road wins for the first time in five years, limiting the Houston Texans to 218 yards while posting a 13-6 victory at Reliant Stadium.
Jacksonville (2-9) last won successive games on the road in Weeks 3 and 6 in 2008, at Indianapolis and Denver, respectively. Josh Scobee nailed field goals of 30 and 53 yards while running back Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown while adding 60 receiving yards on six catches.
The Texans (2-9) extended their franchise-worst losing skid to nine consecutive games.
Panthers 20, Dolphins 16
Quarterback Cam Newton tossed a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen with 43 seconds remaining to rally the Carolina Panthers from a 13-point deficit to a 20-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
The Panthers (8-3) have won seven straight games, the longest active winning streak in the NFL.
Miami (5-6) built a 16-3 lead but failed to run the ball effectively and could not hold on, allowing the Panthers to convert fourth-down plays on two key drives late in the game.
Rams 42, Bears 21
After a bye week, St Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin picked up where he left off.
The rookie ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the game’s third play, igniting a 21-point first quarter explosion which led to a 42-21 win over the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome.
It was the second straight victory for St Louis (5-6), which was coming off a 38-8 rout of the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 10 that saw Austin score three touchdowns - all on plays of 55 yards or longer.