By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
November 04, 2003

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DENVER, CO -- Despite 14-penalties, 2 turnovers, along with a punt return by Denver for a touchdown, New England still found a way to beat the Broncos in a stunning 30-26 win on Monday night.

While those mistakes could have killed New England, it was Denver who shot themselves in the foot during the closing minutes of the game.

With the Patriots trailing 24-23 with 3:06 left in the game, the Broncos had pinned New England inside their own 1-yard line. The situation then appeared even more dire after Denver's defense forced three straight incompletions by quarterback Tom Brady, and it appeared New England would be heading home with a tough loss.

However head coach Bill Belichick made a great coaching decision and had long-snapper Lonie Paxton snap the ball out of the endzone to instead take a safety. The move kept the game within reach at 26-23 with 2:46 left in the football game and gave the Patriots a chance to have better field position.

The move worked out perfectly after Denver was caught napping on the ensuing free kick. Deltha O'neal let the ball roll around before picking it up and was taken down at his own 15-yard line. Two plays later with his team facing a 2nd-and-8 play at their own 17-yard line, Denver offensive lineman Matt Lepsis was flagged for a false start penalty which backed the Broncos up 5-yards. Runningback Clinton Portis then gained 7-yards on the next play, so rather than having a 3rd-and-1 play, Denver instead found themselves facing a 3rd-and-6 play at their own 19. Quartarback Danny Kanell (16-of-35 for 163-yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) threw incomplete, and with 2:26 left in the game the Broncos punted the ball away, giving New England one last chance to try and pull it out.

Starting with good field position at their own 42-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady engineered a 6-play 58-yard drive highlighted by completions of 5, 19, and 16-yards to runningback Kevin Faulk in the closing minutes of the game. Brady then connected with David Givens for an 18-yard touchdown with :36 left in the contest to seal the victory for New England.

Brady finished the night 20-of-35 for 350-yards with 3-touchdowns and an interception.

Things looked pretty tough for New England early on. On just their second play from scrimmage Brady fumbled the snap and Denver recovered the football at the Patriots 28-yard line. Four plays later Portis ran for a 15-yard touchdown giving the Broncos an early 7-0 advantage.

On their ensuing possession Brady threw an interception as he tried to connect with a double-covered David Givens on 3rd down and Denver had the ball at their own 35. With their second turnover of the evening at that point it appeared like the Patriots might have been in for a very long night.

But New England caught a break after the Broncos' drive stalled and kicker Jason Elam missed a 44-yard field goal wide left. The Patriots then came right back on their first play from scrimmage, with Brady connecting with wide receiver Deion Branch on a perfectly thrown 66-yard strike knotting the score at 7-7 with 5:55 left in the 1st quarter. The Patriots later caught another break early in the 2nd quarter following a 43-yard field goal by Elam. After the field goal Elam appeared to injure his groin and left the game. He didn't return and it left Denver with punter Micah Knorr having to take over the place kicking duties.

New England then put together a 7-play 58-yard drive and answered with a field goal, knotting the score at 10-10 with 7:57 left in the first half.

Denver then ran 7:33 off the clock after putting together a 14-play 72-yard drive which included three penalties called against the Patriots. A defensive pass interference call against Ty Law gave the Broncos 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and Kannell connected with Mike Anderson for a touchdown, putting Denver up 17-10 with :24 left in the half.

But rookie Bethel Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 63-yards, and it helped set up a 46-yard field goal by Vinatieri to send the Patriots in the locker room down just 17-13.

On their second possession of the second half New England took their first lead of the game after Brady engineered an 8-play 56-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown strike to tight end Daniel Graham to put the Patriots up 20-17 with 5:57 left in the third quarter.

They then forced a punt on the Broncos' next possession, but when Deion Branch returned the ball he appeared to fumble and Denver recovered at the New England 18-yard line. Fortunately the replay revealed that the ground caused the fumble and Belichick challenged the call. The officials overturned the call and the Patriots kept possession at their own 21.

But the game seemed to slip away following that possession. The Broncos' defense forced a 3-and-out and Ken Walter punted 47-yards to Deltha O'neal at Denver's 23, but long-snapper Lonie Paxton was called for a holding penalty. The Patriots were forced to kick the ball again, and this time around Walter kicked a low line drive to O'neal who took it 37-yards for a touchdown to put Denver back up at 24-20.

New England once again answered with a field goal on their ensuing possession, and trailing 24-23 were within reach of pulling out an impressive win against Denver.

"It wasn't the way we anticipated it," quarterback Tom Brady told reporters after the game. "I think we kind of had to weather the storm."

At 7-2 and a week off ahead of them, it appears that the skies may finally be clearing up for New England heading into the home stretch of the season.

GAME NOTES: Wide receiver Deion Branch finished the night with 3-catches for 107-yards including a 66-yard touchdown…..following O'neal's punt return for a touchdown the Patriots hadn't allowed a punt return for a touchdown in 167-games, with the last one coming in the opening game of the 1993 season……wide receiver Troy Brown finished without a catch, ending his consecutive reception streak at 61 games.....Inactives for Monday night's game: WR David Patten, QB Rohan Davey, RB Mike Cloud, S Je'Rod Cherry, LB Ted Johnson, OL Wilbert Brown, NT Ted Washington, and DL Richard Seymour……Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri was a perfect 3-for-3 on the evening, making field goals of 40, 46, and 28-yards….Rookie Dan Klecko got the starting nod at nose tackle, although with the many different defensive formations the Patriots threw at Denver Rick Lyle and Ty Warren also saw action up front throughout the evening…..With Seymour out of the line-up, New England's defensive linemen had a tough time stopping the run. Denver runningback Clinton Portis carried 26-times for 111-yards (4.3 avg) including a touchdown.


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