The 2013 Broncos Comeback: New England Patriots Greatest Games

2013 Broncos Comeback
FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shake hands after the New England Patriots defeated the Denver Broncos 34-31 in overtime at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning starred in the best player rivalry in the history of the NFL. Early in their careers, Brady had the rings while Manning had the numbers. However, as time progresses, Brady started to match Manning’s statistical domination as the two pushed each other to greater and greater heights. Whether Manning was on the Colts or the Broncos, every matchup was must-see TV. These two had several historical battles, but nothing quite compares to New England’s 24-point comeback victory in 2013.

Super Bowl 51: New England Patriots Greatest Games

The 2013 Broncos Comeback Game

Setting the Scene

The 2013 New England Patriots were in something of a transition. After tearing up the league together for six seasons, Wes Welker and the Patriots had a nasty divorce. The duo notoriously had a tough time agreeing to contract terms, and Welker scorned New England to sign with Manning and the Broncos. The Patriots signed Danny Amendola as a replacement, but the former St. Louis Ram tore his groin in the season opener and wasn’t himself for the entire season. The Patriots were supposed to have Aaron Hernandez for 2013, but that…did not work out.

For the majority of the season, the Patriots relied on an unproven Julian Edelman and rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. The offense was still good, but it didn’t play up to its’ usual standards. Fortunately, Rob Gronkowski was healthy for this matchup. The big tight end battled forearm and back injuries throughout the off-season and missed the first six games of the season. However, Gronkowski had knocked off the rust and was going full speed heading into the Week 12 matchup.

New England’s offense was hitting their stride, but Denver’s offense was on a ridiculous pace. The 2013 Broncos were one of the best offenses in football history, as Manning was in the midst of arguably the best season of his career. Surrounded by a fantastic set of weapons in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker, nobody had figured out how to slow this duo down. Brady vs Manning was always must-see TV, but this game promised to be something a little extra special.

The First Half

The Patriots started off this game in the worst way possible. Stevan Ridley fumbled on New England’s opening possession, and Von Miller returned the loose ball for a 60-yard touchdown. New England got the ball back, but Von Miller made another big play by stripping Brady deep in Patriots’ territory. Two players later, Knowshon Moreno ran it in for a two-yard score to make it 14-0. As if that wasn’t enough, LeGarrette Blount fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Denver turned that into a field goal. After just 12 minutes of play, New England already trailed by three scores to one of the most prolific offenses in history.

The Patriots finally stopped shooting themselves in the foot and got some momentum going early in the second quarter. Brady drove the offense down to the Denver 30 before facing a fourth and five. In normal circumstances, this was an easy kick for Stephen Gostkowski. However, Foxboro was abnormally windy so the Patriots tried to convert on fourth down. It didn’t work, and the Broncos took over. 10 plays later, Manning found Jacob Tamme to make it a 24-0 game.

One good thing happened for the Patriots, although it appeared insignificant at the time. With just 15 seconds left before halftime, Ryan Allen fired off a punt to Trindon Holliday. Holliday muffed the punt and Marquice Cole recovered on the Denver 42. While the Patriots couldn’t turn this into points, this muffed punt made Welker serve as the punt returner for the remainder of the evening.

The Second Half

You never want to be down 24-0, especially when you’re facing Peyton Manning and one of the greatest offenses of all-time. The odds weren’t in their favor, but there was still a game to be played. Brady got the ball to start the second half and went right to work. The quarterback found Kenbrell Thompkins three straight times before hitting Gronkowski for a huge 33-yard gain. Three plays later, Brady found Edelman for a five-yard touchdown to quickly make it a 24-7 game.

The Broncos started their first possession by handing the ball off on each of the first five plays. Manning finally went through the air on play number six, and the defense stepped up. Manning found Montee Ball on a screen pass, but Dane Fletcher knocked the ball loose before Brandon Spikes recovered at Denver’s 32. Six plays later, Brandon Bolden plowed through the middle for a one-yard touchdown run.

The defense forced yet another stop, and Brady continued his ferocious comeback. After starting the drive with a 14-yard pass to Thompkins, Brady uncorked a deep ball for Julian Edelman. The 43-yard completion gave New England the ball at Denver’s eight-yard line, and Brady found Gronkowski in the end zone two plays later. Before the third quarter even came to a close, New England had already made it a 24-21 game.

The Patriots weren’t satisfied with the deficit, and the defense made another huge play on the ensuing possession. Kyle Arrington blitzed Manning, forcing Manning to release the ball earlier than he’d have liked. Instead of connecting with Eric Decker, Manning found Logan Ryan for the interception. Give the ball at Denver’s 30, it only took Brady three plays to find Julian Edelman for the go-ahead touchdown.

After a three-and-out by the Broncos, the Patriots went to work building on their lead. New England led a methodical 10-play drive before settling for a field goal at Denver’s 13. Brady just missed Edelman in the endzone one play earlier, but the field goal was enough to make it a seven-point game.

Now needing to get something going through the air, Peyton Manning piloted a touchdown drive of his own. After a defensive holding penalty offset a probable game-sealing interception, Manning brought the Broncos down the field on 11 plays to tie up the game. Brady and Manning both had one more shot to take the lead, but neither could put up any more points. Just like that, the Patriots and Broncos went to overtime with the score tied at 31 apiece.

2013 Broncos Comeback: Overtime

The Patriots won the toss and could win the game with an opening-drive touchdown. However, instead of going for the kill, Bill Belichick decided to take the wind and force Manning to throw into terrible conditions. Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty both questioned the decision on the field, but both players trusted their coach.

Belichick ended up making the correct choice (go figure). The Broncos started with the ball but only made it to their own 42 before punting it away. Now needing a field goal to win it, Brady and the offense went to work. Unfortunately, the unit wasn’t able to capture its second-half magic, as both sides exchanged two more punts.

The Broncos looked like they were in a position to win it with five minutes to go. Facing third and eight from New England’s 37, Manning looked towards Welker for a five-yard gain. Welker was covered by a rookie Jamie Collins and might have been able to get the first down. At the very least, he would have been in the position for a makeable field goal. However, Collins got his hand in there at the last second and ripped the ball out of Welker’s arms. The Broncos had to punt, and New England had one more shot to win the game.

At first, it looked like the Patriots best-case scenario was a tie. After picking up a quick first down, New England had to punt with 3:11 remaining in overtime. With Wes Welker back to take the punt, the Patriots needed a miracle to earn a victory.

Fortunately, they got one. Allen’s punt was short and Welker couldn’t decide whether he should let it go or try to catch it. He ultimately decided to let it go, but he took too long to make up his mind. Tony Carter was already engaged in a block when Welker called off the return, and Allen’s punt bounced off Carter’s leg. This made it a live ball, and Nate Ebner was there to recover the ball at the Denver 13. Stephen Gostkowski came on to make the chip-shot field goal, and the Patriots walked away with one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history against one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

Super Bowl 51: New England Patriots Greatest Games

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