DENVER - The Denver Broncos wasted away their 24-point lead in the first half of the New England Patriots game and lost 34-31 in overtime in a marquee Sunday night game.
The Broncos are now 9-2, but still lead their division since the Kansas City Chiefs also lost Sunday to the San Diego Chargers and are also 9-2.
For the Broncos, the New England game was a tale of two halves.
-- 1st half --
It was a spectacular first half for the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos defense forced three fumbles within the first 7 minutes of the game, capitalizing with two touchdowns and a field goal.
First, Wesley Woodyard forced Patriots' running back Stevan Ridley to fumble and Von Miller picked up the ball and ran 60 yards for a touchdown.
Then Miller stripped the ball from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and that led to Terrance Knighton picking up the ball and running. The Broncos' Knowshon Moreno then ran the ball in 2 yards for the second touchdown.
The Broncos' Duke Ihenacho caused another Patriots fumble and Broncos' Danny Trevathan recovered it at New England's 44-yard line. The Broncos failed to make a touchdown after several plays, including one where Peyton Manning was sacked at the 16-yard line. The Broncos scored with a field goal instead.
At the start of the second quarter, the Patriots fumbled again but recovered it. Then Brady fumbled again, but was able to pick it up and pass it to Brandon Bolden. However, the Patriots failed to score on that possession.
Peyton Manning's first touchdown pass for the night came in the second quarter when he threw to Jacob Tamme.
Broncos led 24-0.
Then Miller sacked Brady and the Patriots were forced to punt.
By the end of the second quarter, Trindon Holliday muffed a punt and the Patriots recovered with less than a minute left in the first half. On their last play of the quarter, Brady threw a Hail Mary pass and Broncos' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tried to intercept it but hurt his shoulder in the play and was out for the rest of the game.
The 24 points the Broncos had was the largest halftime deficit in Bill Belichick’s career.
-- 2nd half --
The Patriots came roaring back after halftime, with four unanswered touchdowns in the first four possessions.
They scored on the opening drive in the third quarter, with Brady throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman.
Patriots finally got on the board 24-7.
Then when the Broncos take possession, Monte Ball fumbled and the Patriots recovered and were able to score another touchdown with a 1-yard Bolden run. Patriots were back in the game 24-14.
During the Broncos' next possession, Manning dropped the ball but was able to recover it. Unfortunately, the Broncos failed to score and were forced to punt.
On the next play, Brady passed to a wide-open Edelman. Two plays later, and Brady threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski.
It only took 90 seconds for the Patriots to score that third touchdown, and the score was 24-21.
On the opening drive of the fourth quarter, Manning threw a pass that is intercepted by Logan Ryan at the Broncos' 30-yard line.
Patriots score on that interception with a touchdown run by Edelman and the Patriots took the lead, 24-28.
At the next possession, the Broncos were forced to punt.
The Patriots settled for a field goal in the next drive and edged the score higher to 24-31.
Manning threw an interception immediately after that but the play was overturned because of a Patriots penalty. Another Patriots penalty helped the Broncos gain a first-down when they were 3rd and 7, and Manning threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, tying the game 31-31.
On the next drive, the Patriots were forced to punt and Wes Welker took it to the 33-yard line with 1:34 left in the game. The Broncos failed to make a play and Colquitt punted to the Patriots, who also failed to make a play.
The game went into overtime.
-- Overtime --
At the start of overtime, the Broncos lost the coin toss so Belichick elected to have the Broncos return first.
Because the Broncos failed to make a touchdown in the first possession, the Patriots could have won the game with a field goal.
Patriots also failed to score, and when it was the Broncos turn to score, they also failed to do it.
The Patriots failed to score again but when Denver received the punt, Wes Welker signaled too late that he wasn't going to return it and the ball bounced into Broncos' Tony Carter, making it a live ball.
The Patriots' Nate Ebner recovered it at the Broncos 13-yard line and after Brady ran twice to line up the kick, Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal for the win.
-- Game setup --
The game was hyped as the battle of the legendary quarterbacks and one of the most watched games of the season.
The Broncos were 2-point favorites, but the last time Manning beat the Patriots was when he was with the Colts eight years ago.
However, New England (7-3) has a bunch of new receivers and Tom Brady was having a subpar season. Still, he's 9-4 against Denver and led the Patriots to a franchise-record 35 first downs in last year's 31-21 win over the Broncos. Also the Patriots are 5-0 at home this year and and 35-3 at home over the last 38 regular-season games.
Broncos Julius Thomas, Champ Bailey, Zac Dysert, Ronnie Hillman, Michael Huff, J.D. Walton, and Chris Kuper were all listed as inactive for Sunday's game.