Broncos knock Pats from unbeaten ranks with OT win; Gronkowski hurt
DENVER -- Running back C.J. Anderson broke loose through the snow for a game-winning, 48-yard touchdown run, and the Denver Broncos rallied to beat New England 30-24 in overtime Sunday night, handing the Patriots their first loss of the season.
Denver's defense stopped quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots on the first OT possession, and Anderson shook free from a couple of Patriots defenders en route to the decisive score.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler, making his second career start in place of injured Peyton Manning, was 23 of 42 for 270 yards, including a touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Caldwell in the final moments of regulation. Osweiler was intercepted once.
Brady completed 23 of 42 passes for 280 yards, connecting with running back Brandon Bolden and tight ends Scott Chandler and Rob Gronkowski for touchdowns. Gronkowski (six catches, 88 yards) took a hard hit trying to make a catch with just under three minutes remaining and was carted off the field with a knee injury.
Osweiler gave Denver (9-2) its first lead of the night, 24-21, when he completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Caldwell with 1:09 remaining in regulation.
That was enough time for Brady to drive the Patriots to Denver 29-yard line. With no time left, kicker Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 47-yard field amidst the snow flurries to send the game into overtime.
New England (10-1) appeared to gain control of the game when Brady lofted a pass downfield to Bolden, who slipped past a tackler at about the 30 to turn it into a 63-yard catch and run for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Patriots led 21-7.
A special teams mistake got Denver back in the game. Chris Harper fumbled a punt, and Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett recovered at the New England 36. That led to Anderson's 15-yard touchdown run, which pulled Denver within 21-14 with 12:34 remaining. Anderson finished with 15 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Osweiler drove the Broncos to the Patriots' 3 but after a third-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone, Brandon McManus came on to kick a 21-yard field goal with 6:12 to play, setting the stage for a frenetic finish.
Denver wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders made six receptions for 113 yards.
The Broncos fell behind 14-0 before they put together a long drive that Ronnie Hillman finished with a 19-yard touchdown run to pull within seven at the half. Osweiler kept the drive alive with a 3-yard sneak on a 4th-and-1 play.
New England forced a three-and-out on Denver's opening possession and found themselves with a short field when Britton Colquitt's punt traveled only 25 yards to the Broncos' 47.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady went 4 for 4 on the drive, the last a 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who eluded a pair of defenders en route to the end zone.
The Patriots second touchdown drive began at the Broncos' 15-yard line after defensive end Chandler Jones intercepted a pass just beyond the line of scrimmage after Osweiler was hit by defensive end Jabaal Sheard as he released the ball.
Tight end Scott Chandler found an opening between two defenders and Brady connected with him from 9 yards out for the score.
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NOTES: Broncos OLB DeMarcus Ware missed a third straight game with a back injury. Denver also was without wide receiver Jordan Norwood (hamstring). ... New England WR Danny Amendola missed the game because of a knee injury. Also out with injuries or illness were TE Michael Williams, CB Justin Coleman and LB Jamie Collins. ... Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski's first-quarter touchdown catch was the 63rd of his career, moving him ahead of Shannon Sharpe for third place on the NFL's all-time list among tight ends. ... Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower left the game with a knee injury late in the second quarter. ... Denver NT Sylvester Williams and S T.J Ward left early in the second quarter with ankle injuries. G Louis Vasquez left later in the same period with a groin injury. None of the three returned.
The Patriots at Houston game Dec. 13 has been flexed to Sunday night football, it was announced.