NFL-Little mistake ends Patriots Super Bowl defence

Jan 24 (Reuters) - New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick lamented the missed big plays in a 20-18 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday but it was a little one that ultimately may have cost the defending champions a return trip to the Super Bowl.

While Belichick rued missed opportunities on both sides of the ball, the turning point happened in the opening half when the Patriots had taken advantage of a Denver turnover to score a touchdown and were a convert away from tying the game at 7-7.

But Patriots place kicker Stephen Gostkowski did something he had not done since 2006, missing an extra-point attempt that allowed the Broncos to maintain a lead in the AFC championship game they would never relinquish.

Until that moment, Gostkowski had made 523 consecutive extra points and was just one of five kickers who did not have miss the entire season.

Gostkowski did kick 38 and 46 yard field goals against the Broncos, but his miss will be most remembered.

“A lot of big plays in the game. Any one of them probably could have made a difference,” offered a solemn Belichick.

“We all feel … there’s such a fine line today between winning and losing that they all could have done a little bit more and it may have been a different result, but it wasn’t, so crash landing to the end of the season, like it usually is in the National Football League.

“A lot of big plays in the game. We had a good chance at the end and they made a big play.”

After Tom Brady had worked some fourth quarter magic leading the Patriots on a 50-yard scoring drive capped by a four-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski with 12 seconds to play, Gostkowski’s first half flub loomed large, forcing New England to go for the two-point convert to send the contest to overtime.

With the game on the line Denver’s defence dug in and pressured Brady into a hurried throw that was tipped by Aqib Talib and grabbed by Bradley Roby to preserve the Broncos’ victory and a spot in their record-equalling eighth Super Bowl.

“Finally we score some points near the end and for it to come down to a two-point conversion is a tough way to end the season,” said Brady. “You make some (two-point converts), you’re not going to make them all.

“We were happy we were still in the game, based on the way we played offensively. We just never could get into a rhythm.

“We lost to a very good team today. I wish that two-point play had been different.” (Editing by Andrew Both)


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