The stage was set. New England Patriots vs.
Indianapolis Colts Denver Broncos.
One more time.
If Denver was Super Bowl-worthy, this was the last test. Three teams beat them this season: San Diego (redeemed), Indianapolis, and New England. New England beat Indy last week, so this was a way of coming full circle.
To the game.
Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and a championship game record-tying 32 completions, completely out playing Tom Brady, while Denver’s John Fox also came away the superior coach.
The Broncos won the coin toss and elected to kick off. The Patriots went three-and-out, punting to the Denver 15.
Manning moved the ball past midfield, settling for a punt. New England went seven yards and punted, again, to the 18.
Continuing the shotgun formation with little huddling, Peyton drove Denver all the way down to the Patriot nine-yard line, earning the game’s first score on a Matt Prater field goal.
In the next four plays, Brady missed a wide open receiver going deep but still made it down to the Bronco 33-yard line. Luckily, offensive pass interference moved them back out of field goal range, forcing a punt to the Denver seven as the quarter ended.
Manning found his stride on the next drive, taking seven minutes and 15 plays all the way to the end zone. *Physical Patriot corner injured himself for the second consecutive AFC Championship (odds??) on a Wes Welker-collision across the middle early in the drive. On 3rd and 10 at the Patriot 39-yard line, running back Knowshon Moreno ran to his right for 28 yards. On first and goal at the one, Manning faked the run and rolled right, finding tight end Jacob Tamme for the score.
Brady started the next drive quick as well, moving the ball to midfield in two plays. After advancing to the red zone, the crowd noise helped force New England to take a timeout on 3rd down. Upon resumption, Brady was sacked for the first time. After settling for a field goal, Denver leads 10-3 with 2:54 to play in the half.
Manning put together another impressive drive, going 63 yards for a field goal with 25 seconds remaining. He wanted to go for it on fourth and one at the Patriot 17, but Fox made the smart call and took the points [Broncos Coach: +3].
Denver received the second half kick. Manning must have still wanted that touchdown: he drove 90 yards in seven minutes, finding Demaryius Thomas in the end zone. Manning’s balanced style put Denver up 20-3 with 7:52 in the 3rd.
The Patriots pushed past midfield, ending up at the Denver 29 for a 4th down and three. The loud crowd was about to make Brady call timeout again when the Broncos took one themselves. Upon return, Brady was sacked for a 10-yard loss. No field goal = [Bad Coach Belichick: -3].
Manning did not waste the field position, finding D. Thomas deep for 30 yards into the red zone. Montee Ball ran out the quarter on a seven yard pick-up. Our main tight end Julius Thomas comitted a costly hold on second down, but he made up for it with a first down catch. With the ball down to the one-yard line on third and goal, we made the same mistake as last week when we didn’t run. The ball fell through J. Thomas’s hands on a good throw. Fox took the field goal, though [Broncos Coach +6].
The Patriots continued to pass, going 54 yards in their first four plays. They needed a fourth down conversion to stay alive, finally scoring their first touchdown with under ten minutes to play, trailing 23-10.
The Broncos did not get conservative. Manning found J. Thomas down the left sideline on a 37-yard play, putting them just deep enough in New England territory for a 54-yard field goal try. Prater nailed it.
In desperation, the Patriots managed another touchdown with just over three minutes left. Down 26-16, they went for the two-point conversion. They ran it, and Shane Vereen got stuffed.
New England tried the onside kick, but Denver’s Eric Decker, better prepared from last week, smoothly caught the kick and went out of bounds.
With the ball at the Bronco 49 and the clock at 3:07, Denver went to work one more time. Ball ran for three yards, forcing the first NE timeout. Manning passed to Tamme for 23 yards on second down, forcing timeout #2. Ball ran five more yards to the Patriot 20, making them take their final timeout with 2:41 to go. We killed the clock with three more runs, the final on fourth and two for another first down. Manning kneeled it one time to end the game.
If you’re scoring at home, our coach was +6. Belichick was -3. If the Patriots would have been in better position, they wouldn’t have had to go for two, taking the extra point for +1. That’s exactly 10 points – the difference in the game.
Well done, Denver.
With two weeks to prepare for the Super Bowl, I leave with the best interview of all time: