DENVER —** When quarterbacks make mistakes against the Patriots, they don't often have the opportunity to erase them. With a potent offense and sound defense, New England tends to turn one misstep into a mountain of them, and that's part of the reason why they came into Sports Authority Field at Mile High at 10-0.
But they left it 10-1 with a 30-24 overtime loss, and a large part of that was because quarterback Brock Osweiler stayed composed. He led a 14-point comeback by refusing to let one mistake turn into many.
"There was no panic on the offensive side of the ball," Osweiler said. "We just kept going out there and doing our job one series at a time. [...] We started a little slow. We started picking up momentum as the game went along."
The Broncos trail the New England Patriots early in the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (All photos by AP Images)
Panic could have easily set in for the Broncos. Offensive miscues and a short Britton Colquitt punt allowed the Patriots to start their first drive on Denver's 47-yard line. Four plays later, they scored on a 23-yard touchdown to tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the second quarter, Patriots defensive end Jabaal Sheard deflected Osweiler's release and forced an interception. Three plays later, New England scored on a touchdown to TE Scott Chandler.
"Turnovers against the Patriots -- you learn if you lose that turnover battle, you're probably going to lose the football game," Osweiler said. "That was one of those deals where it was a bad play. You have to put in behind you and you have to move forward."
Osweiler and the offense moved forward and cut the deficit in half 2:07 before halftime with a 19-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Hillman. However, after a scoreless third quarter, the Patriots would get back to a two-touchdown lead. With 14:50 left in regulation, Denver needed to put together two scoring drives while holding New England's offense at a standstill.
It's hard to prepare for that kind of imposing situation, but Quarterbacks Coach and Passing Game Coordinator Greg Knapp talked to Osweiler about how much can change in the fourth quarter.
"One of the last things that we said before we finished meetings was that no matter what happens in the first three quarters, it's going to be a 60-minute game," Osweiler said. "That held true tonight with a little extra bonus time."
The momentum began to turn with Patriots turnover on a punt return, which turned into a 15-yard touchdown run by running back C.J. Anderson. On the next Broncos possession, Osweiler led a drive to New England's 3-yard line before it stalled, leading to a field goal. After forcing two Patriots punts, the Broncos were down 21-17 and had 2:31 to conduct a final drive.
The offense huddled up behind its starting position at the 17-yard line, focused on starting off on the right foot.
"The first thing is just getting a positive first play," Osweiler said. "We talk about two-minute drives a lot in our quarterback room. [Some] of those things [involve] getting a positive first play, no negative plays and then finding an explosive play somewhere in that drive."
Broncos rally to top the New England Patriots 30-24 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The explosive play and positive first play were one and the same: Osweiler found wide receiver Demaryius Thomas down the right sideline, leaping over cornerback Logan Ryan for a 36-yard gain.
"The thing that I think our offensive group did was that we stuck to our rules that we've been coached to do, and we just battled through it," Osweiler said. "It wasn't always pretty, but, I think, as long as you're willing to just continue to fight and fight throughout a game, you'll always hang in there."
With another big play—this time to WR Emmanuel Sanders for 39 yards—Osweiler had the Broncos within eight yards of the goal line. After one play and a penalty, he connected with WR Andre Caldwell for a 4-yard touchdown.
Patriots QB Tom Brady led his team on a game-tying drive at the end of regulation, but the Broncos shut them down in overtime on the first possession, giving the Broncos a chance to win the game with any score.
After gaining two yards on the first two plays, the Broncos faced third-and-1. They looked to run to the right side, but Osweiler checked to the second play.
"It was a check we had worked on all week in practice," he said. "We were trying to run the ball [to the] weak [side]. They gave us a specific defensive front that we can't run the ball into, so I checked to our second play that we called in our huddle. The line did a hell of a job and C.J. did the rest."
With his 48-yard gallop to the end zone, Anderson delivered the knockout blow and the Broncos gave New England its first loss of the season in a performance that says a lot about the team.
"This was a tremendous team win," Osweiler said. "We couldn't win this football game if our defense didn't play the way that [it] did. We couldn't win this football game if our special teams didn't do what they did tonight.
I think the biggest thing about tonight is that it just shows what this football team is all about. We're willing to fight until there are zeroes on that clock."