- Associated Press - Monday, November 25, 2013

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady erased a 24-point deficit. Peyton Manning’s touchdown pass forced overtime.

The game was in the hands of two great quarterbacks.

Then a punting duel ensued and a live ball hit the leg of a backup cornerback.

Tony Carter ran into Ryan Allen’s punt after it bounced, Nate Ebner recovered for the Patriots at the Broncos 13-yard line and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime to give New England a 34-31 win over Denver on Sunday night.

“What a crazy game and what a fun finish,” Gostkowski said.

The Patriots lost fumbles on their first three possessions and they were booed several times in the first half.

But Brady threw for three touchdowns to lead the Patriots (8-3) from a 24-0 halftime deficit against the NFL’s best offense for a 31-24 lead as New England scored on its first five possessions of the second half. Then Manning threw an 11-yard scoring pass to Demaryius Thomas for the Broncos (9-2), tying it at 31.

“You can’t move the ball when you’re losing it,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “You’ve got to hang onto it.”

But Carter’s gaffe was the third lost fumble for the Broncos in the second half.

“It was really a tale of two halves,” Denver interim coach Jack Del Rio said. “We forced turnovers and jumped on them early. They forced turnovers and jumped on us at the end.

“We just had a fluke play at the end.”

The game marked the return of former Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who signed with Denver in the offseason. He was a non-factor with four catches for 31 yards. The crowd even chanted “Wel-ker, Wel-ker,” when he went back to return the final punt. Then he waved his hands to warn his teammates to stay away from the ball when it bounced.

Carter didn’t and the Broncos remained tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC West lead. The Patriots lead the AFC East by three games.

“I was running to get away from the ball and it took a bounce right into me,” Carter said.

The early turnovers helped Denver to a big halftime advantage, but the Patriots took the lead when Brady hit Julian Edelman for a TD early in the fourth. Gostkowski’s 31-yard field goal made it 31-24 midway through the fourth.

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