The game that seems to warrant the most discussion was a classic game for the ages. Another installment of the Manning-Brady rivalry. Two of the top teams in the AFC, if not the NFL. A game that, as it turned out, lived up to the billing, and then some.
It did not start off that way, however. The Broncos jumped all over New England early, and built up a solid, seemingly insurmountable 24-0 lead by halftime.
But it only seemed insurmountable to teams other than the New England Patriots. Belichick, Brady and Co. pulled off yet another one of their miracle victories. The Patriots rally started with 21 unanswered points in the third quarter alone, and 31 straight points.
By the end of the fourth quarter, it was Manning and the Broncos who had to come back from behind in the final minutes of the fourth just to stay alive in the game, and force overtime. They were able to do so when Manning found Demaryius Thomas for an 11-yard touchdown, nodding it at 31-31.
A flukey play on special teams doomed the Broncos, as a punt accidentally hit a Bronco player, and the Patriots were able to recover deep in Denver territory. Not much later, a 31-yard field goal attempt by Gostkowski split the uprights to secure the win for the Patriots, who raised their record to 8-3, while dropping the Broncos to 9-2.
Kansas City might have been able to capitalize, had they rebounded from last week's tough loss at Denver. But instead, the defense allowed the most points that they have all season against the Chargers.
It appeared that the Chiefs had done just enough to clinch the come from behind victory in what was an epic offensive shootout, as Dwayne Bowe in the end zone with 1:22 left on the clock, to secure an apparent win.
But the Chargers, led by Philip Rivers, were able to stun the Chiefs by responding with a touchdown drive of their own, managing the clock beautifully. Rivers threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Seyi Ajirotutu with 26 seconds left, thus staying alive in the playoff race, and handing the Chiefs their second straight loss, as well as their first home loss of the season.
As for the Patriots, the win against Denver, coupled with bad losses by the Jets, who were pummeled in Baltimore, and the Dolphins, who took a big lead against Carolina only to watch the Panthers take over and secure a come from behind victory themselves, has almost secured the division now for New England, as they now enjoy a three game margin, with five games remaining for each team.
Another funky divisional race took a strange turn yesterday in the NFC North. The Bears got plowed in St. Louis, as the Rams took care of business, 42-21. That would mean that the Lions had the opportunity to capitalize the break the tie atop the division, if they could get past the Tamp Bay Bucs, who only a couple of weeks ago were the last remaining winless team in the league. But Tampa Bay managed to not only stay with Detroit, but to take the lead and hold off the dangerous Lions attack, to secure their third win in a row. Both the Lions and the Bears now stand with 6-5 records. In the meantime, the Green Bay Packers had a rare tie at Lambeau Field against their division rival Minnesota Vikings, so despite not having won a game in a month, they still are only a half of a game behind the other two teams.
I already mentioned the Ravens victory against the Jets, but the Steelers also got an important 27-11 win against the Cleveland Browns, jumping ahead of that team for the first time all season, and now moving into a tie with the Ravens for a chance at that final AFC Wildcard.
In a big NFC East showdown, the 5-5 Cowboys visited the 4-6 Giants. New York, after an 0-6 start, were looking to win their fifth game in a row, and tie Dallas for second place in the division, while the Cowboys wanted to put some cushion between themselves and the Giants, and keep pace with the first place Eagles.
Dallas dominated early, and held a 21-6 lead midway through the third quarter.
But New York responded, when Manning found Brandon Myers for a 27-yard TD, to get within one score.
Late in the fourth quarter, Manning and Company answered again, as Manning threw a four-yard touchdown to Louis Murphy Jr. then got the two-point conversion from Andre Brown, who ran it in the end zone to tie it all up.
But Dallas managed the ball and the clock beautifully the rest of the way, making sure the Giants offense never touched the ball again. The Cowboys drove deep down into New York territory, setting up a 35-yard field goal by Dan Bailey as time expired to secure the all-important road win, to keep Dallas undefeated within the division, and effectively ending the Giants season.
The Arizona Cardinals blew out the inconsistent Indianapolis Colts, 40-11 in a game where you were not entirely sure what to expect. The Colts look great one week, and then look terrible the next. The Cardinals, despite not making much noise or receiving much attention, have now won four games in a row to move to 7-4.
Finally, Tennessee won on the road at Oakland, while the lowly Jaguars traveled to Houston to hand the Texans their ninth straight loss. The Houston Texans entered the season as one of the popular favorites to reach the Super Bowl, and at least be a serious contender. Hard to imagine exactly what went wrong, but it all seems to be falling apart in a hurry for Houston!