Patriots fans who left the game at halftime at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on Sunday night probably had a few regrets when they got home

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New England overcame a 24-point deficit at the break and won 34-31 over Denver on a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in overtime.

In another installment of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, it was Brady who got the best of it, leading his troops back with three touchdown passes and 34 points in the second half. Brady went 34 of 50 for 344 yards and no interceptions, while Manning threw for just 150 yards with two TDs and an interception.

But in an ironic way, the game came down to a strange play involving former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, who was the punt returner late in overtime. Welker decided not to return a punted ball and waved his hands for his teammates not to touch it. But the ball bounced off teammate Tony Carter who was trying to run out of the way.

The Patriots recovered the ball at the Broncos 13-yard line and shortly after that kicked the game-winning field goal.

Welker took the blame for not communicating in time.

“I’ve got to get to him earlier, and tell him, and get those guys out of the way if I’m not going to make the catch,” Welker said. “I was a little bit in between, and you can’t be that way.”

Cardinals gaining respect: The Arizona Cardinals can officially be thrown into the mix as a playoff contender after beating Indianapolis 40-11 in Week 12.

Arizona (7-4) has won four straight games after starting the season 3-4.

“We’re starting to believe in each other and trust one another and we’re making plays all around,” said Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown.

It was an impressive win over the AFC South-leading Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck. The Cardinals haven’t lost since Oct. 17 to Seattle, and are starting to get noticed.

“I think this was a respect game,” said Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, who passed for 314 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “I don’t think we’re well-respected throughout the league. But I think we’re better than people think.”

49ers defense steps up: San Francisco shut down Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins in a 27-6 win on Monday night, showing that its defense could be the key to a run for the playoffs.

The 49ers held Washington to just 190 yards of offense while sacking Griffin four times. Griffin passed for just 127 yards with one interception. The 30 yards gained by the Redskins in the second half are the fewest in a game in the second half by any team this season.

And the 190 total yards allowed make it the fifth time since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach in 2011 that the 49ers have limited a team to under 200 yards. That ties Baltimore and Houston for the most in that span.

“We haven’t got dominated like that since I’ve been here,” Washington coach Mike Shanahan said.

San Francisco (7-4) ranks sixth in defense overall in the NFL, allowing 311.6 yards per game, fourth in pass defense at 208.2 and fourth in scoring defense, allowing an average of 16.7 points per game.

After hosting the Rams, the defending NFC champion 49ers have a rematch at home against NFC West leader Seattle.

Numbers:

11,019 – Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald became the youngest player in NFL history (30 years, 85 days) to reach 11,000 receiving yards. He has 11,019 in his career.

95, 80, 65 – St. Louis rookie Tavon Austin is the first player in NFL history to record a 95-plus-yard punt return touchdown, an 80-plus-yard receiving TD and a 65-plus-yard rushing TD in a single season. He joins Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Gale Sayers as the only players in league history to score four touchdowns of at least 50 yards in a two-game span in one season.

Week 12 Top Performers:

Offense –

  • Philip Rivers, Chargers, 27-39, 392 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT
  • Knowshon Moreno, Broncos, 37 carries, 224 yards, TD
  • Josh Gordon, Browns, 14 catches, 237 yards, TD

Defense –

  • Wesley Woodyard, Broncos, 15 tackles
  • Cameron Jordan, Saints, 2.5 sacks
  • Corey Graham, Ravens, 2 INTs

Sidelines: San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree is expected to return on Sunday for the 49ers game against St. Louis. Crabtree is coming off a torn right Achilles tendon, which occurred in May. He had a career-high 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns last season… Minnesota released cornerback A.J. Jefferson on Monday after he was arrested on a domestic assault charge. Jefferson was arrested by Eden Prairie police early Monday morning…Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s policy for non-PED substances. Thurmond was starting for cornerback Brandon Browner, who is out with a sever groin pull and probably won’t return until the end of the regular season or the start of the playoffs.

Copyright © 2013 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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