On a warm Sunday afternoon in the Mile High City the Denver Broncos welcomed the New England Patriots to their home field for the AFC Championship. With a pair of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks facing off against each other the game had drawn considerable attention throughout the nation. After asserting themselves as the class of the AFC all season long, the Broncos and Patriots met-up exactly where the two best teams in the conference should be: facing each other for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The Broncos defeated the Patriots 26-16 in a game that was not even that close. A Patriots defense that could not afford another injury being held together by bailing wire saw top cornerback Aqib Talib go down early in the game. With Talib out, quarterback Peyton Manning attacked the secondary with abandon and led extended scoring drives. This time, it was Peyton Manning playing defense against Tom Brady as he kept the ball away from New England’s quarterback.
It was another season with New England struggling on defense after an injury to top cornerback Aqib Talib. The Broncos offense was too much for the Patriots defense without Talib and no one on the defense was able to step-up to make a big play and stop a drive. Give much credit to Denver quarterback Peyton Manning as he played probably the best game of his career against a Bill Belichick defense. Every third down he seemed to have the answer and the open receiver. It was a fantastic performance befitting a Hall of Fame quarterback.
For New England, their offense sputtered from the start and never was able to get on track. Even when they had the opportunities, quarterback Tom Brady did not connect downfield when he had receivers open deep. As New England continually left points on the board, Denver kept tacking them on and running precious time off the clock in the process. With over 500 yards of offense and 400 yards passing, the Denver offense had an almost perfect performance to justifiably move forward to the Super Bowl.
The first half showed the Patriots offense unable to get in gear as they missed opportunity after opportunity to extend drives. On the other side of the field, Denver converted repeatedly on third down to control the clock and the game. The Patriots rushing game was non-existent as LeGarrette Blount gained six yard on five first half carries. It was no better in the second half as the Denver offense eliminated any chance of a power running game showing up for New England.
Denver, meanwhile, ran occasionally but took advantage of the injured cornerback Aqib Talib to gain big yardage in the air. At halftime, Denver had almost double the passing yards of New England with Peyton Manning completing 18 of 25 passes for 214 yards and the game’s only touchdown. Tom Brady was 9 for 15 for 114 yards. New England’s defense was unable to generate a turnover in the first half and letting Denver march up-and-down the field was a key problem.