The Denver Broncos won the AFC Championship Game for the seventh time in franchise history after smothering the New England Patriots 26-16 at Mile High Stadium. Their prize is a trip to the Super Bowl to play the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, February 2nd.
The Broncos were in complete control of the game from opening kickoff until the clock hit zero. Denver simply did not allow for any drama or uncertainty, especially after the way 2012 ended. They were the best team in the AFC all season long and they made sure everyone knew it yesterday afternoon.
Here are some thoughts on the Broncos’ big victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game:
- On a day when players all over the roster played great football, it’s hard not to start with the man in the middle of it all, Peyton Manning. His efficient 400 yard and two touchdown performance was truly a sight to behold. He controlled the game from beginning to end and helped wear down the Patriots until the Broncos had pretty much ended things early in the fourth quarter. Denver won in almost every stat category out there, but maybe the most impressive was winning the time of possession battle by 10+ minutes thanks to two long Manning touchdown drives. Manning is now 2-1 against Tom Brady in AFC Championship Games and has a chance to win his second ring in two weeks.
- The third quarter is when the Broncos put the game away. They took the second half kickoff and drove 80 yards in 7:08 to score a touchdown that put them up by 17 points. On the ensuing New England possession that took another 5:27 off the clock, Terrance Knighton made the play of the game and got the ball back in Manning’s hands while still holding that 17-point lead. On 4th down and 3 at the Denver 29-yard line Knighton blew past Logan Mankins and sacked Brady for 10-yard loss. Denver took over and marched down the field again, eventually taking a 23-3 lead early in the fourth quarter. All told the Patriots were held to a single possession in the third quarter and only 3 total in the entire second half! Knighton broke the Patriots’ back with his big stop and has emerged as one of the most valuable players on the defense.
- Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas destroyed the New England secondary on Sunday. DT had 134 yards and a score and Julius had 8 receptions to lead the team. It seems like every time Julius touches the ball he’s moving the chains, and if he gets going it usually means the offense is firing on all cylinders. Odds are that Seattle will try to take away Denver’s deep threats in the Super Bowl. If that’s the case I expect Wes Welker and Julius Thomas to make a big impact on February 2nd.
- It would be impossible to give the Denver defense too much credit for what they’ve accomplished in the playoffs so far. They held the San Diego Chargers to a mere 17 points in the divisional round and they followed it up with an even more impressive effort against the Patriots. And these aren’t exactly second string quarterbacks either! Philip Rivers and Tom Brady have not only tormented the Broncos over the years but they’ve been two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL over the past decade or so. If the defense can continue this level of play the Broncos will have a great chance at winning the Super Bowl.
- Matt Prater finally delivered his breakout game in the playoffs. After missing a field goal against the Chargers (and nearly missing another), he drilled 4 field goals yesterday with the longest from 54 yards out. He also tacked on two extra points to complete his perfect day. Chances are the Broncos will need Prater to nail a couple of big kicks in what likely will be a tight game against the Seahawks. I’m confident he will deliver.
- After a stellar 15-year career Champ Bailey is finally getting the chance to play in a Super Bowl. Let’s get that man a ring!
- Yesterday was a very special day in Broncos Country. It’s not often you get to celebrate a conference championship on your home field. But what made it even sweeter was the fact that Denver went through their two arch rivals (San Diego and New England) to get there. Sometimes it feels like these things are meant to be.
- Next up is Super Bowl XLVIII! If Denver can find a way to win one more game they will be World Champions. Go Broncos!