Five seconds into the fourth quarter, I tweeted that the game was over. The reason for the tweet was due to the way the Denver Broncos had failed to convert opportunities into points all game long and that the New England Patriots are a tough team to beat down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Instead, the Broncos came together in all phases of the game to outplay and outfox Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in what would become an instant regular season classic that we'll all be talking about for years to come.
It all started with a muffed punt by the now-unemployed Chris Harper of the Patriots. After the Broncos responded to a Brady dagger of a 63 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bolden to put the Patriots up 21-7 with a frustrating three and out, the Broncos special teams unit came up with the play that turned the tide of the game.
Game not over. For the first time in the game, momentum where there for the taking by Brock Osweiler and the offense. All they had to do was deliver.
And deliver they did.
On third down, Osweiler would hit Emmanuel Sanders over the middle for a huge 17 yard pass play to get the Broncos into the red zone. C.J. Anderson would take the ball on the next play and gash the Patriots defense for a touchdown to close the gap ever so slightly.
The Broncos defense has been waiting all season for an offense that they could depend on to convert their successes into points. Von Miller become a force, pressuring Brady on third down and was held badly, which negated another potential Brady dagger of 51 yards. On the next play, Brady feels the pressure again on third and 20 and just throws it in the dirt in frustration.
Osweiler would then drive the Broncos down to the goal line, but couldn't convert. In a move that was questioned on social media, Gary Kubiak called for a field goal. In hindsight, you always take the points when you know you have at least one more drive attempt. This isn't a Madden video game and you don't chance throwing away momentum in a football game like this one.
After the teams traded three and outs, Brady looked to ice the game after completing a pass to Rob Gronkowski. However, misfortune struck the Patriots on the next play as Gronk would be carted off the field with a knee injury.
Rattled and shaken, the Patriots would punt two plays later. The defense had done its job yet again.
With two and half minutes left in the game and no timeouts, Osweiler would need to engineer an 83 yard touchdown drive to beat one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time and the defending Super Bowl champion to boot.
Kubiak and Osweiler finally dialed up my playbook and began challenging the Patriots deep. Osweiler would hit Demaryius Thomas on a beautiful 36 yard strike. It would be Thomas' only catch of the game, but it was the most important catch he could have made.
I cannot describe how frustrated I had been in this game that Osweiler wasn't going deep on this Patriots defense. Perhaps, going deep for the sake of going deep is what has been causing Peyton Manning to get so many turnovers this year. Instead, Osweiler was picking his spots.
With the game on the line, Osweiler was at his finest. After another drop by DT - all is forgiven for that one catch - Osweiler went deep again, hitting Sanders on another perfectly placed ball for a 39 yard gain down to the Patriots eight yard line.
There's still over a minute to go in the game at this point! I'm screaming "run the ball!" for the simple desire to leave Brady no chance to get a field goal to tie this game. However, the Broncos were not leaving fate to chance. They needed a touchdown and didn't care how much time it took to get it.
You can go all the way back to Super Bowl 32 to see that Kubiak isn't one to take chances when it comes to scoring touchdowns. Offensively, in that situation, he put the game on Osweiler's shoulders and he delivered yet again with another perfect pass. This time to Andre Caldwell.
Touchdown Broncos, 24-21.
The story should end here, but the Broncos were playing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. With just over a minute left in the game, Brady promptly got his team into field goal position for the game tying field goal. I must admit, doubt began to crawl back into my mind at that point.
The doubt grew more when the Patriots won the coin toss in overtime.
Apparently, I had forgotten that this Broncos defense is the best defense in the NFL. First an incompletion over the middle that looked like solid coverage to me, but Brady and Brandon LaFell were demanding a holding call on that play. No dice.
Then Von Miller happened.
Then Shane Ray happened.
Special teams started this comeback and now the defense re-takes momentum, handing the ball back to Osweiler and the Broncos offense to bring home the win. A total team effort.
After a short gain on first down by C.J. Anderson, Osweiler would complete a pass over the middle to Owen Daniels to setup third and one at the Patriots 49 yard line. Osweiler would audible that play, the offensive line would block perfectly at every level and Anderson would tough mudder his way through the muck, juke a Patriots safety and glide into the end zone victorious.
Broncos win. Special teams turned the tide, the offense responded with points to nearly every fourth quarter defensive stand and together they turned a 21-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to a 30-24 overtime victory over the formerly 10-0 Patriots. That's something special.
Sal Paolantonio said after the game that this was the greatest regular season win he'd ever seen the Broncos produce. I might disagree with that on another day, but not today.
The identity of this Broncos team is beginning to take shape. It's a gritty football team that doesn't know how to quit and like the 2013 Seattle Seahawks are clutch when the stakes are highest. Whether it be on the road on Thursday Night Football against a tough Kansas City Chiefs team or on Sunday Night Football against undefeated juggernauts like the Green Bay Packers and these New England Patriots. The Broncos are the most dangerous team in the AFC.
I'm ready to say that this is Osweiler's team now. I just don't see how Manning fits into this outside of carrying a clipboard and using his great football mind to help a young quarterback win games through December and into January. It's tough to admit it, but when your body can't make the throws your mind is telling it do make, then its over.
As it stands, the Broncos are 9-2 and almost control their own destiny. The Broncos certainly control it for the #2 seed, but they need the Patriots to slip up just one time down the stretch to have a shot to force the road to Super Bowl 50 to flow through Denver. Something tells me this could happen if the Broncos stay hot through the last five games.