Patriots keep winning with comebacks
The New England Patriots are making the amazing look
Week after week, comeback after unlikely comeback, they startle
fans and foes by finding strange ways to win.
They overcame a 24-point halftime deficit then recovered their
overtime punt after it bounced off an opponent and kicked the
winning field goal against Denver.
They came back from 10 points behind at halftime and won on a
53-yard field goal with just over three minutes left against
They scored two touchdowns in 30 seconds with the help of a rare
recovered onside kick against Cleveland.
And that’s just in their past three games.
”Sometimes the stars align in your favor,” special teams
captain Matthew Slater said Monday. ”We’ve been real blessed this
year to have the ball bounce our way and we’re just going to go
with it. We’re not going to question the why of it.”
A charmed life, perhaps?
”There’s no charm in winning in the NFL,” defensive end Rob
Ninkovich said. ”You fight hard for four quarters and you come out
with the win.”
What makes the Patriots’ late-game success even more remarkable
is that they’ve achieved it without some of their best players.
Defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, linebacker
Jerod Mayo and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer were on injured
reserve for the past three games.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski joined them there Monday after
suffering an injured right knee midway through the third quarter
Sunday with Cleveland leading 12-0.
Even without him, the Patriots beat the Browns 27-26 with a
comeback crammed into a bizarre final 61 seconds:
– A 2-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman.
– A 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for a hit on
– Because of that penalty, an onside kick from the 50-yard line
instead of the New England 35 that was recovered by the
– A defensive pass interference call that moved the ball from
the Cleveland 30 to the 1.
– The go-ahead scoring pass to Danny Amendola on the next
– And, finally, a failed 58-yard field goal attempt by
Cleveland’s Billy Cundiff.
Even Slater had to wonder why the Patriots have been able to
rally in so many games so late.
”Especially after yesterday,” he said. ”It took a lot for us
to pull that one out.”
It helped that the Patriots (10-3) have plenty of experience in
close games, keep practicing situations that rarely come up just in
case they do and have Brady at quarterback.
They’re 7-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer this
A 30-27 win over the then-unbeaten New Orleans Saints in the
Patriots sixth game was a hint of what was to come.
The Patriots trailed 27-23 when they got the ball with 73
seconds and no timeouts left at their 30.
A 9-yard completion on fourth down gave them a first down at the
Saints 17. The Patriots rushed to the line and Brady spiked the
ball, stopping the clock with 10 seconds remaining.
Then he lofted a 17-yard pass to undrafted rookie Kenbrell
Thompkins for the winning touchdown with 5 seconds to go.
”We just knew that it was going to come down to the last
minute,” Thompkins said. ”Until that clock said all zeros on it,
we were going to fight.”
Their latest run of rallies began on Nov. 24 when the Patriots
trailed Denver 24-0 at halftime.
Then they scored on their first five series of the second half
and won 34-31 after Ryan Allen’s punt bounced right into the
Broncos’ Tony Carter and was recovered by Nate Ebner. Three plays
later, Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal.
Seven days later, another bad first half left them trailing the
lowly Houston Texans 17-7. They still trailed 31-28 before
Gostkowski kicked two 53-yard field goals in the last 7 1/2
The Patriots also have been on the losing end of some wacky
They lost to the New York Jets 30-27 in overtime when Nick Folk
got another chance at a field goal after Patriots defensive tackle
Chris Jones was penalized for pushing a teammate into the offensive
line when Folk missed his first attempt.
And they fell 24-20 to the Carolina Panthers when the officials
picked up a flag thrown for pass interference against Panthers
linebacker Luke Kuechly when he wrapped up Gronkowski in the end
zone as Brady threw to his tight end on the last play.
But that onside kick on Sunday?
Never in their 54-year history had the Patriots scored the
winning points on the possession after recovering one.
”My job is to get it 10 yards and give the team a chance.
That’s what I did and the ball bounced our way,” Gostkowski said.
”I’ve never been that jacked up after a game. I don’t celebrate
too much after field goals, but when we get an onside kick, I was
all over the place.
”I probably looked like an idiot out there.”
There’s a first time for everything.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org