Although they came close, it was a disappointing afternoon for the New England Patriots as they fell to the Denver Broncos 20-18 in the AFC Final.
With 12 seconds left in the game, Patriots QB Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski on fourth down to bring the Pats within two. But on the two-point conversion, Brady was intercepted for the third time in the game. A failed off-side kick by Steve Gostkowski sealed their fate.
Brady was under pressure the entire game from the Broncos’ defense, particularly from Aqib Talib, Malik Jackson and DeMarcus Ware, and was sacked four times. Despite 310 yards, Brady never got untracked.
Broncos QB Peyton Manning completed 17 out of 32 passes for two touchdowns. It was the fourth time Brady and Manning faced each other in the AFC Final and the fifth time overall in post-season play. Manning has now won three of five of these matchups, although overall Brady has won 12 of their 17 games against each other. But that didn’t matter today. Manning will be playing in his fourth Super Bowl, his second while in a Denver uniform.
The Broncos will face the winner of the NFC Final between the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers (which is now underway) in Super Bowl L on February 7th.
UPDATE: The Panthers easily defeated the Cardinals 49-15 to win the NFC title and will meet the Broncos in a fortnight. It is the second time the Panthers will go to the Super Bowl, having gone a dozen years ago only to fall to Brady, Belichick and the Pats. The 15-1 Panthers will likely be favored to win their first Super Bowl title, but there will be popular sentiment for the Broncos as Peyton Manning is likely to retire.
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