Going into Sunday’s AFC championship game, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect both the Patriots and the Broncos to top 30 points in a dual of high-octane offenses, but the two teams were able to combine for just 42 points. At the end of the day, the Broncos were able to put together a true team effort, and were able to push past the Patriots at home.
Going into the game, it was all about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, and rightly so. Neither of these teams would be playing so deep in the postseason without their star quarterbacks, but the game’s outcome was determined by the players around the quarterbacks. For their part, Manning and Brady played efficient, smart games without the big turnover.
Although they allowed a pair of late touchdowns, Denver’s defense was nothing short of relentless against New England. Danny Amendola, one of Brady’s go to receivers, was held without a single reception, and much of the Patriots’ late production came as a result of the Broncos’ prevent defense.
While coverage was solid down the field, the big reason New England’s offense never got off the ground was the pressure that Brady felt in the pocket all afternoon. Although the Broncos’ were only able to sack Brady twice, they were able to consistently make him move and buy time in the pocket, leading to inaccurate passes and in some cases bailing the Broncos’ secondary out of a jam.
The opposite was true on the other side of the ball. Manning rarely saw any pressure to speak of, and that never bodes well for opposing defenses. Denver controlled the ball for over 35 minutes of the game, and piled up 507 yards in total offense, 400 of which came through the passing game.
The Broncos will now await the winner of Sunday evening’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. Regardless of which team will make the trip to New York to meet the Broncos, the attitude of the game is already set. Denver, a team built on passing the ball and running up the score, will battle a team built on controlling the game’s tempo and keeping opponents off the field.
With the win, Manning will be appearing in his third Super Bowl and his first with the Broncos. Head coach John Fox will be leading his second team to the promise land. In his first Super Bowl appearance as a head coach, Fox’s Panthers were defeated by none other than the New England Patriots.