Patriots stun Broncos in Christmas Eve thriller behind 20-point 3rd quarter


The New England Patriots stunned the Denver Broncos on the road on Sunday in a Christmas Eve thriller that saw Chad Ryland nail the go-ahead 56-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining in the game.

Bailey Zappe engineered a seven-play, 44-yard drive that saw the Patriots run a few running plays before Zappe fired a 27-yard pass to DeVante Parker to keep the drive alive. He then threw a pass to Mike Gesicki to give Ryland at least a shot at hitting the game-winner. He nailed it.

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Mike Gesicki celebrates

New England Patriots tight end Mike Gesicki (88) celebrates his 11-yard reception for a touchdown with guard Mike Onwenu (71) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in Denver.  (AP Photo/Geneva Heffernan)

The Patriots won the game 26-23.

New England went into halftime down 7-3 in what was thought to be a dud of a football game. But New England erupted and capitalized on a handful of Broncos miscues to put 20 points on the board. Zappe had two touchdown passes in the frame – one to Elliott and the other to Gesicki.

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Cody Davis took advantage of a Broncos fumble and recovered the loose ball in the end zone. New England was up 23-7 going into the fourth quarter.

Then, Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense woke up. Wilson threw a touchdown pass to Lucas Krull and completed the 2-point conversion to get to within eight points. Then, he followed that up with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Johnson followed by another completed 2-point conversion.

Lucas Krull celebrates

Tight end Lucas Krull #85 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after catching a pass in the end zone for a touchdown during the 4th quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at Empower Field At Mile High on December 24, 2023 in Denver, Colorado.  (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Wilson had a chance on their next series to go up but the offense sputtered and Zappe took advantage.

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Zappe finished with 256 passing yards and two touchdowns. Elliott led the team with 27 rushing yards and had nine catches for 33 yards. Demario Douglas had five catches for 74 yards. Parker had four catches for 65 yards.

Wilson, who was sacked five times, had 238 passing yards and two touchdown passes. Marvin Mims Jr. had three catches for 63 yards.

Ezekiel Elliott scores

New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowsk)

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Denver fell to 7-8, putting a damper on their hopes of a playoff berth. New England improved to 4-11.

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