Patriots rally to defeat Broncos

Updated: November 4, 2003, 3:16 AM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey -- Given the opportunity by his defense, quarterback Tom Brady took advantage.

Brady capped a dramatic drive in the final minutes by finding David Givens with an 18-yard scoring strike as the New England Patriots posted a 30-26 triumph over the Denver Broncos.

After Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a gutsy call and took a safety with 2:51 left, the New England defense made their coach look like a genius by stopping the Broncos on a three-and-out.

Brady got back the ball with 2:15 left and put together another memorable drive. He completed 4-for-5 passes for 58 yards, three times finding running back Kevin Faulk for key gains.

The final play on the drive was the pass to Givens in the front left corner of the end zone.

"It was a simple fade ball," Givens said. "He threw a back shoulder fade and I made the catch. O'Neal was in press coverage and Tom has two choices. Either he throws it over him or throws it back shoulder. He decided it to throw it back shoulder."

The stunning victory left New England (7-2) with a 1 1/2 game lead in the AFC East Division. The Patriots have won five straight heading into their bye week.

"We've got a lot of tough guys in that locker room," Belichick said. "It was tough out there, but those guys are tough, too. This team is a pretty resilient team. We just wanted to come out of here with a victory. It doesn't get any tougher than hers in Denver. It's good to win this game."

Denver (5-4) dropped 3 1/2 games behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West and heads into its bye week on a three-game losing streak.

"I'm going to tell you what I said to our football team," Shanahan said. "Obviously, this is very tough. I told our football team that I don't really know what to say. I thought we fought extremely hard. The bottom line is that in the end, we didn't get it done, and they did."

"The bye week couldn't have come at a better time," Denver running back Mike Anderson said. "We really need to take some time off and get away from everything. Every now and then, everybody needs a little break. Sometimes you need time to regroup and rethink things."

The Broncos had a number of chances to put away the game in the second half but were hampered by an injury to kicker Jason Elam, who strained his groin in the second quarter. Not having Elam factored into a pair of crucial fourth-quarter decisions for Shanahan.

"It made a big-time difference," Shanahan said. "Anytime you can't kick a field goal, and you know you have to score a touchdown, it changes a lot of your decisions during the game.

"There were a couple situations during that game when we were in plus-territory, and if the field goal kicker is there, you run the football, you go for it, and you know you have an almost-automatic three points."

Brady had a huge game, going 20-for-25 with 350 yards and three touchdowns.

Denver's Clinton Portis had 111 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries but the Broncos lost when having a 100-yard rusher at home for the first time since December 10, 1995 - a span of 28 games.

On Sunday, the Dolphins had no answer for defensive end Dwight Freeney as they were defeated, 23-17, by the Indianapolis Colts. Freeney had three sacks and two forced fumbles as the Colts (7-1) one game ahead of the idle Tennessee Titans (6-2) for the lead in the AFC South. Unbeaten Kansas City (8-0) also had a bye.

Among the biggest surprises this season, the Dallas Cowboys won for the sixth time in seven games with a 21-14 victory over the Washington Redskins.

The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants kept the pressure on the Cowboys in the NFC East.

The Giants, who handed the Minnesota Vikings their first defeat last week, were the road team in their own stadium as Kerry Collins passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns and Brett Conway kicked a 29-yard field goal with four seconds left in overtime for a 31-28 win over the New York Jets.

Donovan McNabb threw for a season-high 312 yards to lead Philadelphia (5-3) to a 23-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons. It was the seventh straight loss for the Falcons (1-7).

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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