Whatever game you were expecting between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos, last night's come-from-behind-in-the-fourth-to-win-it-in-OT finish for the Broncos was probably nothing close to what you imagined.
But it was one of the greatest Broncos games in recent memory, complete with snow, Mile High Magic and a lot of kicking and screaming.
It was so exciting, that the 23-degree temps at the start of overtime made zero difference to the 76,000-plus fans who stuck around to watch the Broncos dethrone the undefeated Patriots.
"It felt so good," said cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. ,who could just as well have been speaking for every Broncos fan in the country. "Guys on the defense, we fought all game against the best quarterback. You've got to tip your hat to the Patriots; they played a great game, but we were the better team today."
The outcome was exactly what John Elway was wishing for when he brought Gary Kubiak on board last January - when he coined the "kicking and screaming" mantra that has been building all season, finally culminating in last night's victorious dogfight.
Whether the GM expected it in such dramatic fashion is impossible to know, but given his quarterbacking history with the franchise, it's safe to say he loved every second of Sunday night's fight.
And make no mistake, it was a fight.
"I love the way they compete," Kubiak said after the game, while acknowledging the Broncos still hav a long way to go. "They never get down on themselves in certain situations. They continue to battle. I just think they're growing in their strength as a group because of some of the adversity that we're having - missing this guy, missing that guy, things happening, but yet they keep going. This league is about overcoming adversity many, many times over - not just once."
And that's exactly what they did over and over during the game. Starting off with a three-and-out and then getting down 7-0 just four minutes into the game had many a Broncos fan fearing the worst. And when the score jumped to 14-0, many assumed it was same old, same old - just a different year.
But it was an inexperienced and extremely poised quarterback that showed the team recent history has no bearing on the current game.
Staying patient and confident, Brock Osweiler kept at it, and even when the Broncos' third drive of the game showed promise but ended in failure and then when No. 17 was intercepted on a tipped pass on the Broncos' 15-yard line, the "Brockos" didn't give up.
"Something that my college offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone, preached over and over and over again, and stuff that we hear in Denver as well, is play the next play. No matter what happens, good or bad, the previous play is over with and it's done with," Osweiler said about that unlucky INT that led to quick second TD by the Patriots. "You learn if you lose that turnover battle, you're probably going to lose the football game. That was one of those deals where it was a bad play. You have to put it behind you and you have to move forward."
That's exactly what they did, and the Broncos finally scored a touchdown just before the half, following a 10-play drive in which seven calls were to one of the two starting running backs - C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman. A 19-yard run by Hillman put the Broncos on the scoreboard, bolstering the Orange and Blue as they headed to the locker room 14-7.
With some help from Peyton Manning, Osweiler and the Broncos made some important observations that helped with some key halftime adjustments.
"Peyton was fantastic at halftime. He came up to me and - you know Peyton - of course, he had a list of things ready to talk about that he saw out there," Osweiler told ESPN. "I'm not going to go into specifics, but he certainly did help me, and he helped this football team get a win today."
The 14-7 score remained unchanged throughout the third quarter, as both offenses struggled to make much headway. And even when the Patriots struck with a quick touchdown to begin the fourth quarter, the Broncos never doubted themselves.
"Even though it said 21-7, you just have to take it one play and one dive at a time and that's what we did offensively," Osweiler said after the game, noting the cliché that you can't stop playing until the clock has all zeros.
The Broncos answered with a quick touchdown of their own thanks in large part to a fumble recovery by Shaq Barrett off a miffed punt return that put the Broncos on the Patriots' 36-yard line with most of the fourth quarter to play.
Tightening the score to a seven-point deficit, the Broncos defense kept the Patriots out of the end zone on the following drive and the Broncos were able to put three more on the board, making it 21-17 Patriots with just under seven minutes to play.
The defense did its thing once more - with a big boost from an offensive pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski - but the Broncos couldn't take advantage of the opportunity.
No problem. The defense buckled down once again, forcing short plays and incomplete passes from the NFL's No. 1 offense.
"When you play the Patriots, they test your whole defense," Harris Jr. said. "They test your communication, and we had great communication all day today. Everybody was on the same page, and that's what it takes."
Getting the ball back on their own 17 and just 2:31 on the clock with no timeouts, the Broncos offense took just 1:22 to go 83 yards in five plays and score the go-ahead touchdown on a four-yard pass to Andre Caldwell.
"I just know that this place was electric," Caldwell said of the catch. "I haven't seen this place like that in a long time. The fans were going crazy. It was wild. This is the best place in the NFL to play football."
Though the Broncos scored almost too quickly, giving Brady enough time to drive 51 yards and let their Pro Bowl kicker produce the tying field goal, the Broncos had shown the grit coaches and fans have been wanting to see.
And Osweiler above anyone else knew that he needed the entire team fighting for the win to come away victorious in a game like Sunday night's.
"One thing that I do know is that I know this was a tremendous team win," he said. "We couldn't win this football game if our defense didn't play the way that they 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 zeros on that clock."
Osweiler's performance first half was underwhelming - going 10 of 14 for 87 yards with one INT. But what matters in the long run is which team has more points at the end. That stat belonged to the Broncos.
With a lot of push from a stellar running game that produced 179 yards on the night mixed in with several on-the-money pass plays, Osweiler's stats improved drastically while the Broncos put up six more points than the other guys, thanks to Anderson's breakout 48-yard run on 3rd-and-1 in overtime.
The fact that Broncos snatched victory from Bill Belichick and the Patriots in New England-like conditions was just a thing of beauty.
Caldwell noted after the game that it was exactly how Anderson would have wanted it scripted.
"He'll tell you that this is his kind of game," Caldwell said. "In the snow, those hits hurt. So, you've got to bring the pain to the defense and be physical. It's perfect for him."
It appears to also be perfect for this team, which relishes the hard fights.
"I know, me personally, and I know the guys on defense we were excited when we lost the toss and we were going to have to go on defense because we had just been playing well," said Von Miller, who had one sack and five QB hits. "Everything worked out how we planned it. I was excited to go out there on defense in the overtime."
Emmanuel Sanders called it resilience.
Owen Daniels called it focused.
Anderson called it good execution.
Kubiak called it a battle.
Most importantly, the Broncos called it a win.