NFL.com wire reports
DENVER (Nov. 3, 2003) -- The New England
Patriots overcame their injuries with a healthy quarterback
and a coach who made one of the shrewdest calls of the NFL season.
The Denver Broncos, equally
banged up, couldn't overcome their problems.
Tom Brady threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to
David Givens with 30 seconds left Monday night to give the Patriots a
30-26 win over the Broncos and their fifth straight victory.
It came after coach Bill Belichick's call for a deliberate safety with
his team, trailing 24-23, backed up on their own 1 on fourth down with
The safety made Denver's lead 26-23, but it gave New England punting
room and Ken Walter's free kick put the
Broncos back to their own 15. The Broncos went three and out and New
England had to drive just 58 yards after getting the ball back with 2:15
left after using two timeouts
"I think that was the best call of the game," Givens said. "Our coaches
knew that we have a great field-goal kicker. The offense was moving the
ball all game and either we were going to get three and go to overtime
or score a touchdown.".
Belichick, who took an intentional safety in a 28-19 win here in 2000,
said he took the safety because he figured he'd lose any chance at good
field position if he punted from the end zone.
"We were hoping to get the ball back in decent field position and still
have some time to at least try for a field goal to tie it," he said.
Brady, who completed 20 of 35 for 350 yards, drove New England down the
field easily, hitting Kevin Faulk for 16
yards on the play before the TD. On the touchdown, Givens beat
Deltha O'Neal, whose 57-yard touchdown return late in the third
quarter gave the Broncos a lead they didn't surrender until the final
Both teams entered the game with all sorts of injuries. Denver (5-4) was
without two starting linebackers, and its starting left tackle as well
as Ed McCaffrey, the third wide receiver.
Danny Kanell, Denver's third-string quarterback, was making his
second straight start because of injuries to Jake
Plummer and Steve Beuerlein. And
kicker Jason Elam pulled a groin muscle
during the game, the Broncos' third straight loss.
The Patriots (7-2) had started 40 different players in their first seven
games and added defensive tackle Richard Seymour, having a Pro Bowl season, to their injury list just before the game with a
This loss created emotional damage as well as physical pain.
"It hurts right down here, in the pit of my stomach," said Kanell, who
was 16 of 36 for 163 yards, playing safe by throwing the ball away when
receivers weren't open. "This one will be with me a long time."
For a long time, it looked like he would be celebrating.
New England was leading 20-17 and punted from its own 30 with 3:40 left
in the third quarter. The punt pinned the Broncos back to their own 23,
but snapper Lonie Paxton was called for
On the re-punt, O'Neal took the ball on his own 43 and darted left
through Patriots' defenders, got some help from an official who got in
the way of Walter, and went all the way to the end zone.
The Patriots cut it to 24-23 on Adam Vinatieri
's 28-yard field goal with 11:09 left.
Then came the safety after Brady threw three incomplete passes from the
1. Belichick then ordered Paxton to deliberately snap the ball over
Walter's head. It hit the goal post and the rest went perfectly.
|Tom Brady and Roman Phifer celebrate after the Patriots' game-winning touchdown. || |
"There were a lot of things we didn't do very well tonight," Brady said.
"But the thing about this team is that sometimes we're down but we're
Denver led 17-13 at the half but New England survived two big mistakes.
The first was a fumbled snap by Brady recovered by
Kenoy Kennedy on the Patriots' 28. Four plays later,
Clinton Portis, who ran for 111 yards on 26 carries, raced 15 yards
through a huge hole up the middle to make it 7-0.
Kennedy also had an interception on the next series, but Elam missed a
43-yard field goal attempt, pulling his right groin afterward. He made a
44-yarder in the second quarter, but left the game after that kick.
Brady's 65-yard bomb to Deion Branch
tied it at 7. Elam and Vinatieri later exchanged field goals,
Vinatieri's coming from 40 yards out.
Kanell then engineered a 72-yard, 14-play that consumed half the second
quarter and was capped by his 1-yard TD pass to
Mike Anderson. But Bethel Johnson
returned the kickoff 63 yards, setting up a 46-yarder by Vinatieri to end the
The Patriots took a 20-17 lead midway through the third quarter on
Brady's 6-yard TD pass to Daniel Graham.
Then the fun really started.
But not for Denver.
"We had a chance to win the football game," Denver coach Mike Shanahan
said. "Everyone's got injuries. It is part of the NFL. I thought we did
some good things, but not enough."
NOTES: O'Neal's touchdown return was the first punt return for a
score against New England in 167 games since Sept. 5, 1993. ... In
addition to Elam's injury, the Broncos also lost linebacker
Donnie Spragan with a sprained left foot. He was replacing the
injured John Mobley. .... This was only the second win for New England
in their last 14 games in Denver.
The Associated Press News Service
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