Life’s Bounces

The winds of what looked to be a Broncos rout over the Patriots changed dramatically Sunday night. In a game of oddities, it was only fitting that in the end it all came down to a relative cast of unknowns and the unpredictable landing of one punt

Well, if you went to bed at halftime, when Denver led New England 24-0, you missed:

• The Patriots scoring 31 points in a row.

• Tom Brady throwing three touchdown passes into the teeth of a 22-mph wind in the third quarter.

• Peyton Manning driving the Broncos 80 yards into said stiff wind for the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

• On the 11-year anniversary of the ill-fated Marty Mornhinweg deferral to start overtime (Lions-Bears, Champaign, Ill.; for more details, that is why Google and Bing were invented, but suffice to say it did not end well for coach Mornhinweg), the Patriots won the toss, and Bill Belichick chose to give Manning the ball to start overtime. “We were like, ‘Defer? Take the wind?’ Even the captains didn’t know,” said Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty.

• Very nearly the first day in the NFL in 40 years with two ties.

• The last of 11 fumbles (a muff, actually, though it goes on the stat sheet as a fumble), this one with three minutes left in overtime, leading to the most disheartening loss in Denver hist—oh, wait, there was that double-overtime divisional loss to Baltimore last January. That would be more disheartening than this. But it’s close.

• The name “Peter” (no relation) playing a huge role in the outcome.

• New England winning Brady-Manning XIV, 34-31.

Wes Welker took the blame for the punt-return turnover that ultimately led to the Patriots win, spoiling a 24-0 Broncos halftime lead. (Joe Amon/Getty Images :: John Leyba/Getty Images [2])
Wes Welker took the blame for the punt-return turnover that ultimately led to the Patriots’ win, spoiling a 24-0 Broncos halftime lead. (Joe Amon/Getty Images :: John Leyba/Getty Images [2])
Let’s talk about that muff. It says so much about the game, and about why it turned the way it did and why 27 points came off turnovers. A Montee Ball fumble led to one New England touchdown, and a Manning interception (amazingly, the only interception of the windy night) led to another, and then the choice to defer in overtime … One bit of weirdness after another. “It was a significant wind,” said Belichick in explaining his call. Okay, but handing the ball to Manning? No way Belichick would have done this under the old overtime rules. Before 2012, any score in overtime would end the game. Starting last year, each team would possess the ball at least once in overtime, unless there were a touchdown or safety on the first possession. Upon the second possession, the game would be in sudden death. The specter of Manning driving, say, 40 yards to the winning field goal was far, far different than the specter of Manning driving 75 yards to the winning touchdown.

So Belichick handed Manning the ball willingly. (Which, as you know, hasn’t always been the best practice.)

I was trying to get away from the ball, but it took a bounce. I was hoping it was something else, not the ball. —Tony Carter

Back and forth. With 3:11 left in OT, Manning would get one last chance to end the game. The Patriots lined up to punt from their 43. The punter, rookie Ryan Allen, stood near his 28. His personal protector, second-year former college rugby player Nate Ebner, was a few yards in front of him.

“Just a normal punt play,” Ebner said.

But not so normal. Back for Denver was Wes Welker, a sure-handed returner. Sure-handed, yes. But not the normal guy back there. The Broncos yanked Trindon Holliday, the normal (and dangerous) return man, because he’d fumbled earlier, and Welker, who’d returned but four punts all season, awaited. When the Denver returner waves off the return—when he doesn’t want to bring it back and simply wants to let the ball bounce—he yells, “Peter! Peter!” At the same time he waves his arms in a “no-good” motion. In front of Welker as the punt came down were two men, the closest a backup defensive back (like Ebner), Tony Carter.

“I’ve got to get to him earlier, and get those guys out of the way if I’m not going to make the catch,” said Welker.

In other words, as soon as the punt starts coming down, Welker has to see there’s too much traffic around him from the other team, and he has to scream “PETER” to be sure his guys look for the ball and stay away from it. When a falling or bouncing punt hits a member of the receiving team, it can be recovered by either side.

“I was a little bit in-between,” Welker said, “and you can’t be that way.”

Carter said, “At the last second I heard the get-away-from-the-ball call, like a ‘Peter’ call.”

Ebner, meanwhile, made his way through the morass at the line of scrimmage, fought through some traffic, and was steaming toward the punt spot. “Great punt by Ryan, and at the last second I saw the returner waiving it off. At the last second.”

Carter said, “I was trying to get away from the ball, but it took a bounce.”

With Ebner four yards away, the ball hit the turf and careened into Carter’s leg.

Carter said, “I was hoping it was something else, not the ball.”

It was the ball.

“Free ball then,” said Ebner. “All I’m thinking is, Fall on it. Recover the ball.”

Carter said, “Tough bounce.”

The Patriots lined up the winning field goal, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked it.

“At halftime,” said Ebner, “we knew it was a 60-minute game. We had a lot of time to go. [Belichick] just said, ‘Keep playing.’ We had time. The game wasn’t over.”

My two takeaways from this game:

1. I will take Tom Brady in a weather game over Peyton Manning. Without question. Brady’s arm is better.

2. We’ve spent a lot of time ripping New England’s player-acquisition process in the last few years. The draft, free-agency, trades. But look at how many new players made plays to help this team win. Ebner, a 2012 sixth-rounder, recovers the decisive fumble. Allen, an undrafted free-agent this year, places the punt well. Duron Harmon and Jamie Collins, 2013 draft picks, with 21 tackles between then. Logan Ryan, the third-round corner, with the game’s only interception, a diving job. Aqib Talib, acquired in trade from Tampa Bay, playing huge against Manning all night. Free agent Dane Fletcher recovering a fumble, and 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Buchanan and street free agent Marquice Cole forcing key fumbles. New England beat a very good team Sunday night, and it wasn’t just Brady that did it. It took a village.

*  *  *

Brady-Manning XV. That’s right. Again in 2014.

More on Pats-Broncos
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have opposed each other in Foxboro in nine of their 14 career meetings, including the last three times (2010, 2012, 2013). Denver and New England will play each other again in 2014, per the NFL future scheduling formula. That formula this season had New England playing every team in the AFC North plus the teams in the AFC West and AFC South that finished in the same position as the Patriots in 2012; that, of course, being Denver and Houston. Next season the formula has New England playing every team in the AFC West, plus the like-positioned teams in the AFC North and South.

Of course the 2014 Denver-New England game, it happens, would be in Foxboro.

If he’s still around next season at 38, Manning would be playing his 13th career game in Foxboro, and it would be the 10th time in 12 seasons he has competed against Brady in the town halfway between Boston and Providence (not including 2008, when Brady was hurt, and 2011, when Manning was out).

Conversely, Dan Marino and John Elway played their careers in the AFC, as have Manning and Brady. But Marino and Elway once went 12 seasons, from 1986 to 1997, without facing each other.

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257 comments
fatt41
fatt41

Peter,

I've been an avid reader of MMQB for a long time and really enjoy your insight and bits of life stories that you share with all of us. I really found the insight into Dan Dierdorf's history interesting. I will be honest with you when I tell you Dan was never a favorite for me on football broadcasts. I always found him a little too insightful and it seemed as if he tried to hard to be an insider to the public. I do have to admit I always enjoyed reading about He and Conrad Dobler's long time feud though. I think you have given me a little different perspective on Dan just with a couple of lines of information that I was unaware of about his life.You do a great job of giving us a different perspective in just a few paragraphs. Keep them coming and keep the beernerdness going strong

BbchAt-Fifty
BbchAt-Fifty

When Seattle travels to SF Seahawks corners will  have to check Crabtree. That's fine. SF corners will have to deal with PH and GT on the other side. Good luck with that.

gary41
gary41

The Cardinals have had a good defense for several years, thankfully made no worse by changing DC's, but the big difference in the last 4 games has been the play of Carson Palmer.  He has finally stopped throwing interceptions and playing like he is supposed to play.  Arians has made some adjustments and now the Cardinals are competitive in the NFL west.     

LeBP
LeBP

Peter King and his obsession with Jets bashing-- pathetic.

PaulinMA
PaulinMA

Pete left USC in shame and went to Seattle as the new hero. And now it appears players are 'stretching the rules' in Seattle - how can anyone be surprised?  

HorizontalGophers
HorizontalGophers

Peter - Can you give us an update on the photographer fight during the post game handshake between Manning and Brady? The left that guy threw was as anemic as a Geno Smith pass. The funny part is from the angle of the pic on this site it looks like it was taken by the punchee. 

noly972
noly972

I agree with John Mullen; singing the national anthem isn't supposed to be a performance of a pop song, it's an homage to the USA. How about a little respect for a change.

ReamTeam
ReamTeam

Boo Peter.  You are the Miley Cyrus of football reporting.  Last week you focused on the no call in the Panthers game, which was bad, but, you are neglecting the emergence of a mature Cam Newton.  Last night was another legendary comeback by The Tom Brady, but, a blurb would have sufficed.  I used to read every word of every sentence of every page, but, recently you are too predictable.  Dig deeper into the other stories of the NFL beyond the pop culture headlines you provide no real insight on.  Much more interesting narratives are abound around the league. 

afinta
afinta

I don't know - I think Milliner is looking better every week. Reed made a mess out of that touchdown throw...

mahaloluinoa
mahaloluinoa

Your weekly PK gratuitous plug for Bing, brought to you by the EvoShield fine family of products.

Scramble
Scramble

" Very bad call on the Muhammed Wilkerson low hit on Joe Flacco. Not a foul—not when he’s tripped into the quarterback by a Baltimore lineman."

So what's that like 100 non calls and one bad call, what's your problem.

Scramble
Scramble

" Ref Ron Winter in the Saints-Falcons game missing both a facemask and blow to the head call on Akiem Hicks against Matt Ryan."

 Looks like they are going to start treating Matt Ryan like they have always been treating Joe Flacco. 

StevedeKater
StevedeKater

Good grief, Peter!  Oswald's gun was not "disguised as curtain rods".  That's just plain stupid to say that!  The rifle was wrapped in a package that Oswald simply told his co-worker were curtain rods.  Good thing you are not a real reporter!

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

Must really hurt PK to see his hero, PM, fold like a cheap tent in a windstorm in another high pressure game. 24-zip at the half to a big fat 1 in the loss column. But PK is already manufacturing the excuses; funny how PK declares Tom a better passer in the wind yet Collingsworth was gushing over the accuracy of PMs throws in the high wind.

JoshuaBrickman
JoshuaBrickman

So regarding m above and UMass football, my son goes to UMass and they bus students for FREE to the games.  They are building a new stadium.   Just like UConn the 1st few years when they switched to D1 they will struggle, but when the new stadium is built the investment will bring in more money which of course is the answer to your question.

Mike26
Mike26

Two things:

1 - Another day, another substance-related suspension.  This is nothing new and clearly won't be the last.  PK will still consider them the "cool, hip, young" franchise and just ignore the rest of reality that is the Seahawks.  I mean, you have to - Richard Sherman went to Stanford!  That means his idiotic mouth on the field must be clever and learned, right?  

2- The game last night wasn't a classic.  It was ugly, disjointed, etc.   Yes, it  was cold and windy.  And?  Since it was Manning and Brady, it was "a terrific competition between two greats".  If it were Henne and McGloin, Collinsworth and Michaels would have been yawning and ridiculing the teams throughout.  Whatever.  Let the mass media continue to slobber over these two - they'll both be done in another 2-3 years.  (By then, the Seahawks will have had another 5-6 suspensions to gloss over!)

csanders1
csanders1

r. Cam Newton is so impressive, physically, in the pocket. What a weapon. So hard to bring down, and to catch.

-- because God forbid you imply that he is impressive in any other way in the pocket

rschmetzer
rschmetzer

The Gumble/Dierdorf team has been my favorite CBS teams for several years now.

Mike26
Mike26

The Texans have NOT lost 10 straight (yet) - not until after the Patriots game this coming Sunday.  Assume much PK?  LOL!

usurper
usurper

Parcells buy you a dinner every time you praise Jeff Ireland? You seem to single him out for more praise than all the other GM's combined. Shameless, biased, and pathetic.

Jon8
Jon8

The guy who writes this column (I refuse to mention his name because I find it offensive) mentions Dan Dierdorf's induction into the Hall of Fame, but not his winning the Hall's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, joining only Madden, Len Dawson and Frank Gifford as Hall of Fame/Rozelle Award winners! I will miss Dierdorf's candor!!

Let me get this straight, Tramaine Brock, flunks out of the big school, Minnesota, where he has a full-ride, and ends-up at the only small-school that would take him, and this is somehow an inspirational story of how a guy from a small-school can make it in the NFL? I don't think so Sonny Jim!

evileyefleagle
evileyefleagle

When you're arguing in favor of Ron Wolf's induction, Peter, you should go beyond his Packer days and remind your audience that he was the brains behind the "genius" label that Al Davis temporarily wore.

RonPacker1
RonPacker1

One thing I think I think: If John Wooten and Harry Carson are just learning that the n-word is spoken casually in NFL locker rooms, I think the rock they have been under must be named Gibraltar.

joe6647
joe6647

Itll be interesting how Mannings numbers will look the last month of the year, playing in cold weather

thedon923
thedon923

Gosh Mr. King. Why don't you just give the Pats-Broncos players every freaking award this week

Mike26
Mike26

@BbchAt-Fifty IF PH and GT are eligibile.  IF they're eligible.  That's never a given in Seattle...

gary41
gary41

@LeBP What is pathetic is how reserved Peter King has been with comments about coaching staffs, as he depends upon them for access.  He offers excuses and alibis well past the point of common sense.  The Jets are a textbook case in how to make mistakes in finding a QB.  

jshawaii22
jshawaii22

@PaulinMA 

wonder if it has anything to do with Washington's new open Pot laws, and the fact (I lived there for 20 years) that it sucks 9 months out of the year, weather wise, and smoking dope passes the time.   Browner got busted for Pot.  Probably WTIII, to.   Wouldn't surprise me if they are roommates.  

js

Mike26
Mike26

@noly972 You're talking to many of the same people "entitled" to talking on their cell phones wherever, whenever, however long = including airplanes in the next 2 years.  Airlines can't wait to devise 3-4 more fees for cell phone usage, including calls.  

mahaloluinoa
mahaloluinoa

@ReamTeam  Don't dishonor Miley by comparing her to PK.  Has Miley ever swiped a foul ball from a small child?

Mike26
Mike26

@afinta Everyone but Reed himself knows it's over....

SportPage
SportPage

@DennyCrane Never mind that it's a team game and fumbles fueled both the Broncos big first half and the Patriots big second half. Or that the Broncos had another huge miscue at the end of the game after Manning led a masterful drive to send the game into OT.

George
George

@DennyCrane

What planet have YOU been living on?   peter king (purposely refuse to capitalize) 

is a citizen of and a proven total shill for all things Boston / New England / Brady / PIOLI! / NY / East Coast.  

And when no-neck pk wants a little "strange" -  he sexts Favre on his phone.


Feel free to hate on Manning - I like him but after last night my theme song for PM is 

"The old Gray Mare"

 - but "PM being pk's hero?"  ....   swing and a miss, Denny.

djmakson
djmakson

@JoshuaBrickman As a Massachusetts taxpayer, I wish I can share your optimism.  The idea to move to Gillette to attract Boston area alumni has been, well, unsuccessful.  Rentschler Field is in Hartford and Hartford isn't Amherst.  Do you really see an alumni group unwilling to support their school in Foxboro, heading out to Amherst on Saturdays?  

BigSchtick
BigSchtick

@Mike26 One thing

"rest of reality that is the Seahawks"

Really" You might want to look around the league. A player suspended for weed. Shocking.

Mike26
Mike26

@Jon8 Brock had behavioral issues in addition to his academic issues too.  Just sayin'.....

Mike26
Mike26

@jshawaii22 @PaulinMA If they're too stupid to put aside their selfish desires for just about 10 years they could be set for life financially and smoke the rest of their lives away.  Zero sympathy for those idiots.

BTW, Seattle players have been doped up/smoking dope long before pot was legal...

JoshuaBrickman
JoshuaBrickman

The other option was to go the Boston University route and just cut the sport.  If they were do that and invest in other sports and programs at the school I would be fine with that.  I guess they chased the money.....

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