3 plays that doomed Broncos and their playoff hopes on Christmas Eve

  • Bad start leads to bad finish
  • Major gaffe on kickoff return
  • DeVante Parker beats Pat Surtain II

Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Marvin Mims made a big gaffe in the game.
Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Marvin Mims made a big gaffe in the game. / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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DeVante Parker, New England Patroits
Dec 24, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker (1) makes a game-changing catch. / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Late third-down catch by DeVante Parker

The final two minutes of this game was quite interesting.

After miraculously tying the game with two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions, the Broncos were able to force a Patriots punt to get the ball with a chance to win it in the end. But on three plays, the Broncos lost three yards and had to punt back to New England.

The Pats got the ball at their own 19-yard line with 58 seconds left on the clock. A handoff to Ezekiel Elliott on first down seemed to indicate that the Patriots were content to go to overtime. But Payton called a time out. Following another run play to Elliott, Payton burned his second time out.

He wanted a chance to get the ball back, perhaps feeling the Broncos still had the momentum. It also forced the Patriots to either run a play to get the first down and make their own decision on whether to go for a game-winning field goal or to still shut it down and head to OT.

Bailey Zappe took the next snap from the shotgun and threw a perfect back-shoulder pass to DeVante Parker who turned and hauled it in for a gain of 27 yards. It was Patrick Surtain in coverage for the Broncos and it didn't matter. That play set the Patriots for a chance to kick the game-winning field goal, which they did shortly thereafter as Chad Ryland blasted one from 56 yards for the win.

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A devastating and heartbreaking loss for the Broncos just as Santa was getting the reindeer ready to head out for the night.