DENVER – For a guy who is often ripped as a playoff loser, Peyton Manning looked pretty good on Sunday.
Manning, and his Denver Broncos, are going to the Super Bowl.
Manning was incredible in a highly-anticipated matchup against longtime rival Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field. The Broncos won 26-16. Manning completed 32-of-43 passes for 400 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. After punting on their first possession, the Broncos scored on their next six possessions.
Manning has dealt with criticisms of his playoff failures throughout his career. But now he's going to his third Super Bowl, and will become the third quarterback ever to start a Super Bowl with two different teams, joining Craig Morton and Kurt Warner. No quarterback has ever started and won a Super Bowl with two different teams, and Manning can become the first. In two of his three Super Bowl appearances, Manning has beat Brady and the Patriots in the AFC title game to get there.
This season, at age 37, Manning had quite possibly the greatest regular season ever, breaking records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season. His playoff performance has been a worthy follow up.
Both offenses started slow, and Broncos led just 3-0 after the first quarter. The difference was, the Broncos offense woke up before the game was over.
After Manning hit Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown at the end of Denver's drive to start the second half, Manning was 24-of-32 for 267 yards and two touchdowns and the Broncos led 20-3. It was a virtuoso performance by Manning.
Knowing that the Patriots needed touchdowns and not field goals against the highest-scoring offense in NFL history, New England coach Bill Belichick went for it on fourth-and-3 at the Denver 29 late in the third quarter. Terrance Knighton sacked Brady for a 10-yard loss, and with 2:25 left in the third quarter the Broncos took a huge step towards wrapping up an AFC title.
New England struggled on offense most of the game, but a lot of credit goes to a resurgent Broncos defense. Brady was off on many throws, and didn't get the Patriots into the end zone until 9:26 remained in the fourth quarter. New England scored again on a Brady run with 3:07 left, but Shane Vereen was stopped short of the goal line on a run on the two-point conversion and Denver maintained a 26-16 lead.
The last time the Broncos made the Super Bowl was at the end of the 1998 season, back when John Elway was still their quarterback. Denver has a new legend at quarterback now, and he has the Broncos one win away from their third Lombardi Trophy.
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