Storming back from the brink of defeat, down 24-0 at the half, Sunday's win over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos was not only impressive, it was also the biggest comeback of Tom Brady’s career.
Coincidentally, it was also a classic.
Manning, whose struggles in New England are well documented, was efficient but not his best – throwing for only 73 yards in the games’ first three quarters. Conversely Brady put in, arguably, his best performance of the season.
Finishing with just shy of 350 passing yards and three touchdowns, the long-time Patriot led his team on scoring drives on each of their first five second-half possessions.
With the game on the line, Manning belatedly flashed his brilliance to lead his team to the tying score, before New England clinched the win in overtime – courtesy of a special teams gaffe by none other than Wes Welker.
The former Patriot was making his first visit to Gillette stadium but was something of a non-factor in comparison to the man who’s replaced him in the Patriot offense, Julian Edelman, but his error late on cost his side the game.
Waving his hands to warn his team-mates to stay away from a bouncing punt, Tony Carter panicked and when the ball struck him, was slower to react than Nate Ebner, who recovered the ball and set-up the winning field goal.
There was more to the game than just the miraculous nature of the Patriot comeback though.
Edelman was superb, Rob Gronkowski is looking healthier and faster each week and it’s beginning to look as though, with the business end of the season approaches, the Patriot offense is finally finding its rhythm.
Except for Stevan Ridley.
Fumbling for the third time in consecutive games, losing two in the process, saw him label his performance as “almost disgusting.”
Speaking to the Boston Herald, Ridley admitted he was in the doghouse but conceded there was more to it than just him.
“This night is about the team and how we pulled it out.
“We fought back.
“For me, it’s almost disgusting. Personally, as a player, my team deserves better” he said.
He’s right though, but Bill Belichick will know how crucial he is to the New England offence and, as we have seen previously, he’s not afraid to make an example of those who need to improve.
As a result of the win, New England is now 6-0 at home (8-3 for the year) and clearly atop of the AFC East while the Broncos added to the NFL record of scoring 25 points or more, for the 16 straight game.
With Walter Thurmond facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the Seahawks were handed another blow on Monday as Brandon Browner, an impending free agent, was suspended for a year.
Accordingly, Thurmond is expected to accept his punishment and return in time for the playoffs while Browner will likely never suit up for the Seahawks again.
The former Oregon-State player missed the last four games of last season for violating the same policy and it appears Pete Carroll is ready to cut ties with a player who will be ineligible to play again until next November.
With Browner’s lengthy absence soon to be confirmed, the team are reportedly trying to entice Antione Winfield out of retirement, Perrish Cox and Marcus Trufant are also on the Seahawks radar although, so far, the team haven’t made any significant moves.
Statistically, Geno Smith’s recent efforts have been woeful.
Over the last four games, the New York Jets quarterback hasn’t thrown for more than 160 yards, or for a touchdown.
Instead he has thrown a staggering seven interceptions and lost the ball twice but Rex Ryan isn’t ready to pull the plug just yet.
However, sitting on a 5-6 record, the Jets are still in the AFC playoff hunt and it remains to be seen how long their embattled head coach waits before Matt Simms steps into the breach.
His caution is understandable though, it’s not all Smith’s fault. Collectively the whole Jets offense is under-performing and their offensive line has been inexplicably poor over the last few weeks.
With a three game stretch, that includes homes games with Miami and the Oakland Raiders before they travel to Carolina, Smith is going to have to drastically improve on his 22.3 passer rating if the Jets are to have any hope.
More importantly, Sunday’s match-up is a battle of two teams with a 5-6 record and with second place in the division up for grabs, don’t be surprised if Smith gets hauled off if the Jets find themselves in a hole.