It's been an exasperating few months for hardcore Patriots haters. First, they watched Tom Brady escape punishment for last season's deflated football scandal. Then they watched him lead the Pats to a 10-0 start to this season. The Pats dynasty, it seems, is completely untouchable.
But the football gods threw the haters a bone on Sunday. The Peyton Manning-less Denver Broncos prevailed 30-24 in overtime after some uncharacteristically poor clock management by Pats' coach Bill Belichick, hanging the dynasty their first loss of the season. Brock Osweiler, who replaced Manning as Denver's starting quarterback, and running back C.J. Anderson had something to do with it too. After Osweiler led a drive to give the Broncos the lead at the end of regulation, the Pats tied the game on a field goal. In overtime, Anderson ended it with a 48-yard walk-off touchdown run, scampering past Patriots defenders falling face down into the snow. For Pats haters, it doesn't get much sweeter than this:
In the end, the loss was the least of the concerns for Belichick and Brady, who may be without all-world tight end Rob Gonkowski. The Pats’ most important pass catcher was injured near the end of regulation Sunday night after Bronco’s safety Darian Stewart blasted his knee while breaking up a pass. Gronk was left writhing on the ground and had to be carted off the field, a scary sight for a team that’s already lost Julian Edelman, along with a host of other important players.
There's some indication that Gronk isn't hurt as bad as initially feared though. He walked out of the stadium after the game and ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that he's "going to be OK." At this point of the season, that's much more important than going undefeated.
As for the naysayers reveling in the Pats' first loss, they might have been rooting for the wrong thing. Remember 2007? The Patriots went undefeated in the regular season and finished the year drying their tears with confetti as the Giants knocked them off in the Super Bowl. Every time Brady and Belichick have won the championship, they had at least two loses in the regular season.
Savor the loss for now, Pats haters: the season is far from over.
Photos by Aaron Ontiveroz / Getty images