Peyton Manning and Broncos defence outgun Tom Brady and Patriots
Denver defence make key plays as defending champions ousted at Mile High
Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray reaches for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the second half of their AFC Championship at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver. Photograph: Larry W Smith/EPA
Denver Broncos 20 New England Patriots 18
During the build-up to the AFC championship game in the Mile High City, the spotlight was fixed on Manning and Brady, the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who were meeting for the 17th, and perhaps final time.
But it was the Denver defence that stole the show, intercepting Brady twice and making two crucial fourth down stops late in the fourth quarter to snuff out potentially game-tying scoring drives, including one with just 2:18 on the clock.
The Patriots, however, would not quit and with 12 seconds left to play Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a four-yard touchdown pass.
Needing a two-point conversion to force overtime, the Denver defence again dug in forcing Brady to make a hurried incomplete pass to clinch a spot in their record-equalling eighth Super Bowl.
Manning, who had been plagued by injury and questionable form all season, turned in a performance worthy of a five-times NFL most valuable player, tossing a pair of first-half touchdowns to Owen Daniels.