Brock Osweiler engineered his first comeback win in only his second NFL start.
If his career stays on this track, the 76,970 fans at Sunday's game will have a nice little keepsake — a soggy ticket stub from a snowy night in Denver when the quarterback first showed he could play with the very best in the league.
Starting for Peyton Manning, Osweiler drove the Broncos 83 yards to give the Broncos a brief lead in the fourth quarter, then called the perfect play in overtime to set up the win. Osweiler and the Broncos overcame a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit for a 30-24 victory over none other than Tom Brady and the previously undefeated New England Patriots.
"Something I was told very young in my football career was that the game is not over until zeros are up there on the clock," Osweiler said.
Denver (9-2) won it with 12:32 left in overtime, after Osweiler changed running plays at the line of scrimmage and gave it to C.J. Anderson, who ran around left end for a 48-yard touchdown and the win.
It wouldn't have come to that had Osweiler not connected with Demaryius Thomas for 36 yards, then Emmanuel Sanders for 39, as part of an 83-yard march for a 24-21 lead with 1:09 left in regulation. Denver had trailed 21-7 earlier in the quarter.
Brady (280 yards, three touchdowns) led the Patriots (10-1) to the tying field goal, but after winning the coin toss to start overtime, New England went three-and-out, and Osweiler and Anderson won the game.
Osweiler finished with 270 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He's now 2-0 as a replacement for Manning, whose return is now about more than only his aching left foot.
"I'm not surprised at all," said receiver Bubba Caldwell, who caught the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. "We've got one of the top defenses and he goes against those guys and doesn't flinch. To go out there and do it every Sunday is no surprise to us."
Things we learned from Denver's win over New England:
STANDINGS WATCH: This was the toughest test left on New England's schedule. The final five opponents have a combined record of 22-33. Now, instead of worrying how chasing a perfect record might affect their run at a second straight title, the Patriots can focus solely on keeping the No. 1 seed. They have a one-game lead over Denver and Cincinnati but Denver owns the tiebreaker against the Pats. The Broncos, meanwhile, have followed a two-game losing streak with two straight wins. They play the Bengals at home on Dec. 28 in a game that could be for a first-round bye.
MORE PLAYMAKERS: New England's latest injury came to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who took a hit to his right knee late in the fourth quarter and was carted off the field. He limped from the training room to the team bus. The Patriots were already without top receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola but Brady keeps finding new targets. Backup tight end Scott Chandler had five catches for 58 yards and a score, and running back Brandon Bolden caught a 63-yard touchdown for New England's 21-7 lead.
New England also lost linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who left in the first half with a knee injury.
"I think if you sit there and dwell on it, it might be overwhelming, but we can't do that," Chandler said. "We don't have a choice. We've got to move on."
DOUBTING THOMAS: Thomas had a tough day for the Broncos. Osweiler threw to him 13 times. The receiver dropped at least three, and finished with one reception — the 36-yarder that got the go-ahead drive underway in the fourth quarter.
"Obviously, the weather played a little bit of a factor into it," Osweiler said. "It was tough. But the bottom line is, D.T. made a huge play when we needed him most. I think that's what great players do."
OFF AND RUNNING: One benefit to having Osweiler in the lineup is that it opens up the running lanes because defenses have to respect his mobility and can't just pinch the backfield at the snap. In his two starts, the Broncos have averaged 174.5 yards on the ground.
Against New England, which brought the NFL's third-ranked run defense into Denver, the Broncos ran for 179 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns.
When Manning was the starter, the Broncos managed just 86 yards a game on the ground.
Anderson said he and Ronnie Hillman are "making the right cuts and making the right reads. I'm not saying we weren't trying to do that in the beginning of the season, but we're executing up front better. They're creating lanes for us, they're making big holes, they're making little creases, they're giving us enough room to work with."