Foxboro, MA – Wes Welker didn’t catch the ball, but this time he did it by choice.
With the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos tied at 31 and heading toward a tie at the end of overtime, a Patriots punt flew in Welker’s direction inside the 20-yard line.
At the last second, the former Patriot, who dropped a key pass in the team’s last Super Bowl, decided not to catch the punt.
It was too late.
The ball bounced and hit Broncos special teamer Tony Carter, and the live ball was picked up by the Patriots.
New England set up the field goal, and Stephen Gostskowski knocked through the 32-yard field goal on third down, giving the Patriots a dramatic 34-31 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 12 on Sunday Night Football.
Things looked bleak for the Patriots in the first half.
New England lost fumbles on its first two drives.
Both turnovers resulted in Broncos touchdowns, including one returned by Von Miller for a touchdown.
A third lost fumble in the half prevented the Patriots from getting into any rhythm on offense.
A game that was supposed to be a showdown between Brady and Peyton Manning became a blowout in which neither quarterback was making an impact.
With under two minutes to play in the first half, Tom Brady was screaming.
Down 24-0, the Patriots’ quarterback had thrown another incomplete pass.
His timing was just off.
He was frustrated.
Everything changed in the second half.
Brady opened the half with a touchdown to Julian Edelman.
Manning, meanwhile, couldn’t get anything going.
Constantly adjusting the glove on his throwing hand and feeling uncomfortable in the pocket, Manning struggled for most of the second half, and opened the door for Brady and company to creep back into the game.
In the fourth quarter, Brady was screaming again, but this time it was because he had just completed a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski.
The touchdown brought the Patriots within three points and was part of the 28 unanswered points New England scored in the second half.
The fans who fought through the bitter cold at Gillette Stadium were treated to a vintage Brady comeback.
After the touchdown to Gronkowski to pull the Patriots within three, Brady connected with Edelman again on the opening drive of the fourth quarter.
The touchdown gave the Patriots their first lead of the game and had Brady screaming again.
This time, he had company.
Manning didn’t go down lightly, though.
Down by seven late in the fourth quarter, Manning methodically led the Broncos down the field for a touchdown, his second of the game.
Ultimately, he was out-dueled by Brady.
Manning completed just over 50 percent of his passes for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Brady, meanwhile, had 344 yards and three touchdowns.
The Patriots needed overtime to beat the Broncos, because of course.
Tied 31-31, Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted to take the wind rather than receive the opening kick of overtime.
The decision didn’t backfire.
A third-down Peyton Manning pass fluttered through the air, died in the wind and killed the Broncos’ first drive of the extra frame.
Brady was left screaming over a missed pass interference call later in overtime as the clock ticked down toward zero.
With a tie looking like a possibility, the Patriots punted the ball a final time, and Welker made the decision that cost Denver the game.
Brock Osweiler did make a valiant attempt at blocking Gostkowski’s winning kick, for what it’s worth.
The biggest comeback in franchise history moves the Patriots to within one game of the top seed in the AFC with an 8-3 record.
The Broncos fall to 9-2 with the loss.
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