It was a big day in the NFL. The hopeless Colts, who haven't enjoyed the sweet taste of victory since four time MVP Peyton Manning went under the knife, finally managed to win a game when they topped the playoff-aspiring Titans (who couldn't afford to lose this one) 27-13. On the other end of the spectrum, Aaron Rodgers and his reigning Super Bowl Champs watched their 16-0 dreams disappear in Kansas City.
And in Denver, Tom Brady and his boys battered the Broncos, 41-23, out west to clinch a playoff berth with the AFC East title. The win marked New England's sixth in a row and snapped the Broncos' six-game ride.
8-6 Denver, notorious for starting slow and finishing strong, came out guns blazing in this one but quickly fell apart. Their running game punched holes through the Patriots' poor defense, and the fighting Tebows stormed to a 16-7 lead early in the second quarter. The Pats were missing tackles left and right, but the D pulled themselves together and after that it was all New England. The Pats responded with 20 points of their own before halftime and never looked back. They wouldn't allow any second half heroics from Tim Tebow. who broke Denver's dry spell with his second rushing TD early in the fourth and trimmed New England's lead to eleven, but a BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown iced the game and dashed any hopes for a fifth straight Tebow miracle.
Tebow was the hot topic heading into the game and played reasonably well, but his normally stout defense sabotaged him, as did a sloppy performance from Denver's special teams. Meanwhile, Brady (23/34, 320 yards and two touchdowns) proved once again why he is one of the game's elite. Even as Belichick leaned on his rushers more than usual today, Brady still managed to put up his typical stellar numbers. His preferred targets, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, were quiet but he compensated by connecting with Aaron Hernandez (huge game) and Chad Ochocinco (first score in over a year) for a pair of scores.
New England boosted its record to 11-3. They return home for the final two tilts of the regular season against the Dolphins on Christmas Eve day and the Bills on the first day of 2012. Both opponents are sub .500 and the Pats should beat them, regardless of their postseason status.