In the small hours of Monday morning, just south of a bitterly cold Boston, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots finally overcame the Denver Broncos in an instant NFL classic that provided almost everything.
The Patriots were 24 points down at half-time, failing to score a point as Peyton Manning’s side focused on the running game in windy conditions.
But Brady threw three second-half touchdowns and Brandon Bolden ran in another to give the hosts the advantage deep into the fourth quarter.
Manning finally struck back after a pass to Demaryius Thomas and the resultant kick from Matt Prater levelled it at 31-31 with just over three minutes left.
With a rare draw on the cards deep into overtime, a fitting and thrilling climax sent the Boston fans home happy after an unfortunate Denver mix-up gave possession back to the Pats, allowing Stephen Gostkowski to kick a 31-yard field goal with just under two minutes to go, New England edging it 34-31.
This was the 14th meeting of Brady and Manning but with the AFC low on quality this season, there’s no doubt a 15th clash will arrive during the play-offs.
Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs fell to their first home defeat of the season, Philip Rivers leading the San Diego Chargers to a thrilling 41-38 victory which gives the Broncos a little bit of breathing room at the top of the AFC West.
The Carolina Panthers are enjoying a real streak of success, although they were made to work for their eighth consecutive win by the Miami Dolphins, ultimately coming from behind to win 20-16.
In the NFC East, the Dallas
Cowboys took a priceless win out of New Jersey, where the Super Bowl will be decided in just under 11 weeks’ time.
Dan Bailey kicked the winning score to make it 24-21 after Tony Romo led a late drive deep into Giants territory, halting the recent good form of Big Blue.
It was another disappointing day for the Indianapolis Colts who crashed to a 40-11 defeat at the fast rising Arizona Cardinals who are now firmly ensconced in the reckoning for an NFC wild card.
This game saw a reunion of Colts coach Chuck Pagano and his former assistant Bruce Arians, whose steering of the Colts ship while Pagano battled cancer last season earned him the top job in Arizona.
The Tennessee Titans ground out an exciting 23-19 win at the Oakland Raiders which keeps them in the hunt for an AFC Wild Card.
In spite of a brutal start to the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have now won three in a row, their latest scalp the Detroit Lions, whose 24-21 loss prevented them from taking advantage of the drawn clash in Green Bay between the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. With that game level 26-26 after overtime and the Chicago Bears losing 42-21 to the St Louis Rams, it’s anyone’s guess who will emerge out of the NFC North.
The Baltimore Ravens squeezed the life out of the New York Jets with a defensive display that earned them a 19-3 win, while the Pittsburgh Steelers continued their resurgence with a 27-11 over the Cleveland Browns.
The Jacksonville Jaguars got their second victory of the season at the expense of Houston Texans, while the New Orleans Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday.
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