FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After winning the coin toss before overtime, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made the unorthodox decision to kick off, rather than taking the football and having the chance to score a touchdown on the first drive to win the game.
"The wind, it was a strong wind," he said. "We just had to keep them out of the end zone, obviously. I just felt like the wind would be an advantage if we could keep them out of the end zone on that first drive. We were able to do that. The wind was significant in the game, it was definitely significant."
Wind swirled throughout the day in New England, bringing the temperature down into single digits at kickoff. Though the Patriots were able to rack up 344 passing yards in the 34-31 win, many conceded after the fact that the wind made a substantial difference in the game.
"It [had] a pretty decent effect in the kicking game, more so than the passing game," wide receiver Julian Edelman said. "But I mean, both sides and to deal with it."
The wind appeared to impact Peyton Manning more than Tom Brady, as ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer noted that Manning was just 9-of-18 for 75 yards, one touchdown and one interception in throws into the wind, while Brady was 17-of-23 for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
“The wind played a huge factor in the game," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "A lot of deep balls hung up in the air going toward the lighthouse. It changed what you did as a quarterback. That’s why we gave them the ball and gave them the wind too."
Belichick's decision to take the wind was lauded by defensive back Devin McCourty, one of the captains responsible for notifying the referee of the decision to bypass the chance to receive.
"Bill’s a genius," McCourty said. "Even the captains were like, ‘Really? Defer?’ He wanted to take the wind. Obviously that was the best call."
In the end, the swirling winds deterred Broncos coach Jack Del Rio from attempting a long field goal in overtime that would have been from 55 yards out. In more common conditions, kicker Matt Prater has the leg to make such a kick, but the wind guided Del Rio in his decision-making process.
"It was a factor in that if we had the other direction, we may have had an opportunity with those 5 yards," he said. "That certainly ended up being to their advantage."
The winds reared their head one more time in the play that turned the game, as a punt from Patriots rookie Ryan Allen hung in the air and eventually hit Broncos defensive back Tony Carter for a fumble that the Patriots would recover.
The elements weren't enough to knock Stephen Gostkowki's game-winning field goal off its line, however, as he gave the Patriots their eighth win of the season in thrilling fashion.