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November 25, 2013

Patriots show patience in win over Broncos

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots trailed 24-0. They had to pretend it was 0-0.

It worked.

Drive after successful drive, New England chipped away at that halftime deficit, stopped the NFL’s best offense and stunned the Denver Broncos 34-31 in overtime on Sunday night.

Coach Bill Belichick’s message to his still-determined players at intermission?

“Just to take it as a new ballgame,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “Don’t think there is going to be a miracle where you can score a touchdown and it counts as more. So just take it one drive at a time.”

The Patriots had fumbled the ball on their first three possessions of the game. But they scored on their first five of the second half for a 31-24 lead.

That surge stemmed from a simple philosophy.

“No matter what the score is, just keep going. That should be the motto for everyone,” defensive end Chandler Jones said Monday. “For any team and not just for our team, any team that saw us play the other night. I’m pretty sure that there are other players that watched that game and it just goes to show — don’t stop, just keep going.”

It helps, of course, to have Tom Brady and his skill at fourth-quarter comebacks.

In the Patriots’ previous game, he got the ball at his 20-yard line with 59 seconds left and Carolina leading 24-20.

He drove them to the Panthers 18, but his pass on the last play was intercepted in the end zone about 5 yards in front of where Gronkowski was being bear-hugged by linebacker Luke Kuechly. A penalty flag was thrown for defensive pass interference, then waved off when the referee ruled the ball uncatchable.

The Patriots had a successful comeback four games earlier when they handed the New Orleans Saints one of their two losses. Brady led a 70-yard drive in just 1:08 to the winning touchdown with 5 seconds left in a 30-27 win.

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