The Denver Broncos are going to the Super Bowl! Peyton Manning’s 400 yards and two touchdowns led the Broncos to victory over the New England Patriots 26-16. Many were looking forward to this match up due to the classic quarterback duel between two great rivals, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. This game was the 15th meeting between the two and the fourth in the AFC Championship. In each of the previous AFC Championship meetings, whoever was at home won and this game was no different. Manning is now 5-10 versus Brady overall, and he improved to 2-2 versus Brady in AFC Championship games.
In the first half, defense was the name of the game as the Broncos held the Patriots to only 119 yards total offense. The Patriots couldn’t get anything going and were forced into two three and outs, and a field goal.
In the 2nd quarter, Manning led the Broncos on a 15 play, 93 yard drive which took seven minutes off of the clock. On that drive, the Broncos ran two straight runs in the red zone to the left with Montee Ball. Then on the next play, Broncos ran a play-action bootleg with Ball running to the left and Manning rolling to the right. Manning was able to find Jacob Tamme wide open for a one yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 10-0 lead midway through the quarter. At halftime, the Broncos led 13-3.
To start the 3rd quarter, the Broncos had the ball and devastated the Patriots with another long drive. This time it was a 13 play, 80 yard drive which took another seven minutes off of the clock. All season, the Broncos were known as a team who likes to score quickly and run up the score, but that wasn’t the case in this game. It was clear that the plan was to keep Brady and the Patriots offense off of the field. On that drive, the Broncos picked up six first downs -- at that time, the Broncos had almost as many first downs (21) as the Patriots ran plays (24). Demaryius Thomas gave Alfonzo Dennard a double-move in the red zone, and Manning was able to find him for a 3 yard touchdown. The Broncos led 20-3 with less than eight minutes to go in the quarter.
The Patriots only had one possession in the 3rd, which saw them turn it over on downs. Patriots found themselves in a 20-3 hole going into the 4th quarter.
Brady led the Patriots on two 80 yard scoring drives in the 4th, but it wasn’t enough. The Patriots did have a chance to cut the lead to eight after their second score, but the Broncos defense stuffed Shane Vereen on the attempted 2-point conversion. On the final possession of the game, the Broncos went for it on 4th and short and Ball was able to pick up the 1st down to seal the game.
Key Stats: Peyton Manning completed 32 of 43 attempts for 400 yards and 2 TDs. Knowshon Moreno was the leading rusher with 59 yards off of 14 carries. Demaryius Thomas was the leading receiver with 7 receptions for 134 yards, 1 TD. Julius Thomas had 8 receptions for 85 yards. Eric Decker had 5 receptions for 73 yards.
Danny Trevathan led the defense with 8 tackles. Terrance Knighton had 4 tackles and a sack. Robert Ayers also had a sack.
Tom Brady completed 24 of 38 attempts for 277 yards and a TD. Shane Vereen was the leading rusher with 34 yards off of 4 carries. Julian Edelman led the receivers with 10 receptions for 89 yards, 1 TD. Shane Vereen had 5 receptions for 59 yards. Austin Collie had 4 receptions for 57 yards.
Devin McCourty led the defense with 10 tackles.
Key Notes: Aqib Talib left the game early with a knee injury. Knowshon Moreno left the game in the 4th with a chest injury, but the X-ray results were negative. The Patriots defense didn’t record a sack or a QB hit on Manning. Broncos held the Patriots to only 64 yards rushing -- last week, the Patriots racked up 234 rushing yards against the Colts.