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Chad Ryland’s 56-yard field goal sends Patriots past Broncos 26-23 as Denver’s playoff hopes dim

by Chloe Baker
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NFL Upset Victory

Chad Ryland’s remarkable performance, culminating in a career-defining 56-yard field goal, propelled the New England Patriots to a dramatic 26-23 victory over the Denver Broncos. This triumph delivered a significant blow to the Broncos’ fading playoff aspirations on Sunday night.

The Patriots, with a season record of 4-11, engineered a game-changing sequence in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns within a mere 6 seconds. They then withstood a ferocious fourth-quarter comeback attempt by the Broncos, who stood at 7-8 in the season.

Ryland’s game-winning kick came at the conclusion of a seven-play, 44-yard drive, initiated with only 58 seconds remaining on the clock after the Broncos failed to advance beyond three plays. Denver had managed to level the score with impressive long touchdown drives and successful 2-point conversions in their prior two possessions.

It’s worth noting that Chad Ryland had entered the game as the lowest-ranked full-time starting kicker in the league, with a field-goal success rate of just 65% (13 of 20). The rookie kicker had also missed a 47-yard attempt late in the first half and an extra point in the third quarter.

The Broncos, who were heavily favored by 7 1/2 points according to FanDuel Sportsbook, became the fourth underdog team to secure victory at Empower Field at Mile High during coach Sean Payton’s inaugural season. This latest upset dealt a severe blow to the Broncos’ playoff chances, reducing their likelihood of ending an eight-year playoff drought to a mere 6%, according to NFL calculations.

Bill Belichick, with an 11-10 record against the Broncos during his 24-year tenure with the New England Patriots, continued to deny Denver the distinction of being the only team with a winning record against him during his Patriots era.

Despite falling behind 23-7, the Broncos managed to stage a remarkable comeback. Russell Wilson’s touchdown passes to tight end Lucas Krull and wide receiver Brandon Johnson, along with successful 2-point conversions to Johnson and Javonte Williams, led to a tied score. In the closing moments, the Broncos had an opportunity to complete the comeback but failed to advance beyond three plays, surrendering possession back to the Patriots with less than a minute remaining.

New England seized the lead for the first time when Bailey Zappe connected with Ezekiel Elliott for a 15-yard touchdown, yet Ryland’s missed PAT left the Patriots ahead 9-7. Zappe continued to excel under pressure, finding Mike Gesicki for an 11-yard touchdown pass, extending the lead to 16-7. A pivotal moment occurred when Marvin Mims Jr. fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the 5-yard line, only for Cody Davis to recover and secure the touchdown.

Denver’s offense, already struggling, suffered a significant setback when wide receiver Courtland Sutton left the game with a concussion in the first half. For the majority of the game, Denver managed only a 3-yard touchdown run by Javonte Williams.

The Broncos, while holding onto faint hopes of becoming the fourth team since the merger to make the playoffs after losing five of their first six games, now face a daunting path to postseason contention, requiring substantial assistance from other teams.

Throughout the season, Denver’s defense has been the team’s stronghold, propelling them from a 1-5 start into playoff contention. However, Sean Payton’s offense has consistently fallen short, a fact underscored by the game’s opening sequence.

On the very first play of the game, D.J. Jones stripped the ball from Zappe, recovering the fumble himself at the New England 5-yard line. Despite this advantageous field position, the Broncos failed to capitalize, as Williams was halted by Christian Barmore just a yard short of the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Subsequent drives, initiated with promising field position, also yielded no points for the Broncos.

Bailey Zappe completed 25 of 33 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, while Russell Wilson posted a 25-of-37 performance for 238 yards and two touchdowns.

In terms of injuries, the Broncos sorely missed Courtland Sutton, who has contributed 10 touchdown catches this season. Sutton exited the game in the first quarter due to a concussion.

Looking ahead, the New England Patriots are set to visit Buffalo in their next game, while the Denver Broncos will host the Los Angeles Chargers in their upcoming matchup.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NFL Upset Victory

What was the key moment in the Patriots vs. Broncos game?

Chad Ryland’s career-long 56-yard field goal with 2 seconds left was the key moment, securing a stunning 26-23 victory for the New England Patriots.

How did the Patriots turn the game around?

The Patriots scored two quick touchdowns in a 6-second span during the third quarter, and despite falling behind earlier, they managed to regain control of the game.

How did the Broncos attempt to stage a comeback?

The Broncos, down 23-7, tied the game with Russell Wilson’s touchdown passes to Lucas Krull and Brandon Johnson, along with successful 2-point conversions. However, they couldn’t complete the comeback in the final minutes.

Who was the standout player in the game?

Chad Ryland, despite missing an earlier field goal attempt and an extra point, emerged as the standout player, delivering the game-winning field goal from 56 yards out.

What were the playoff implications for the Broncos?

The loss to the Patriots greatly dimmed the Broncos’ playoff hopes, reducing their chances to a mere 6%, according to NFL calculations.

How did Bill Belichick’s record against the Broncos change?

Bill Belichick’s record against the Broncos improved to 11-10 during his 24-year tenure with the New England Patriots, denying Denver the distinction of being the only team with a winning record against him during his time with the Patriots.

What were the key injuries in the game?

The Broncos suffered a significant blow when wide receiver Courtland Sutton left the game with a concussion in the first half. This further hindered the Broncos’ struggling offense.

What’s next for both teams?

The New England Patriots will visit Buffalo in their next game, while the Denver Broncos are set to host the Los Angeles Chargers in their upcoming matchup.

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