Manning beats Brady: Broncos headed back to Super Bowl

By on January 25, 2016


Updated: Monday, January 25, 2016, 1:08 AM

DENVER — Peyton Manning ain’t finished just yet.

An all-time great game between two Hall of Fame quarterbacks went down to the final seconds, and in a dramatic upset, the eldest Manning brother booked himself one more trip to the Super Bowl with a 20-18 win over Tom Brady and the Patriots for the AFC title in Denver on Sunday.

The Broncos led for almost the entire game, but the Patriots had a chance at the end when Brady connected on two fourth-down passes to Rob Gronkowski, including a touchdown to bring New England within two points with 12 seconds left. The conference title came down to a two-point conversion that would have sent the game into overtime, but Brady’s pass was picked off by Bradley Roby.

“It got real scary at the end,” Broncos general manager John Elway said. “You give a guy that many shots, and they’re going to eventually make some plays like they did late. But we were able to stop the two-point play.”


The Broncos can thank the longer PAT and a missed extra point attempt from Stephen Gostkowski in the first quarter that turned out to haunt the Patriots and helped send Manning to the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons. It’s a scenario that didn’t look likely just a few weeks ago, when Manning was nursing an injured foot and watching as Brock Osweiler became Denver’s starting quarterback. Manning reclaimed the starter’s job, but his struggles throwing down field made the Broncos an underdog on their home field, giving them a little extra incentive to prove people wrong.

“We definitely were angry,” Chris Harris said of all those who were picking the Broncos to lose.

“Scoreboard talks for itself,” said Von Miller, who had 2.5 sacks and an interception, leading a relentless defense that hounded Brady all day.

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Owen Daniels (r.) and the Broncos have reason to celebrate – they are heading to Super Bowl 50.

Indeed, it was Brady who looked shaky throughout most of the game as he kept getting knocked to the ground. He was sacked four times and hit 20 times.

Many of his throws were rushed and off target, and two landed in the hands of Denver defenders.


The Patriots uncharacteristically elected to receive the ball at the start of the game, and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe took that as a slight against the prolific defense.

“I saw that as disrespectful,” Wolfe said. “And I loved it. Because I hate the Patriots. I’ve said it before, I’ll said it again. I hate ’em.”

Two months shy of his 40th birthday, Manning got the green light to throw it. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 176 yards and two first-half touchdown passes to Owen Daniels, with no interceptions.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady meet up midfield after the game.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Broncos QB Peyton Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady meet up midfield after the game.

But even Manning recognized that in the twilight of his career, his job is unlike what it was two seasons ago when he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

“There’s no question it’s been a different season,” Manning said. “My role has been different and my contributions are different. I’m fortunate and grateful that I have the opportunity to contribute still in some way, and it’s a great honor going back to the Super Bowl, playing in Super Bowl 50. It’s going to be a fun two weeks.”


Manning improved to 6-11 in his head-to-head meetings with Brady but won what could be their final showdown. Of course, the knock against Manning has been his failures in big games, but he’s now 3-2 against Brady in the playoffs. The Denver quarterback came out firing, hitting Daniels on a 21-yard touchdown to open the scoring on the first possession. New England countered with a Steven Jackson one-yard TD, but Gostkowski missed the PAT, which later proved critical.

Manning hit Daniels for another score in the second quarter, but, despite clearly outplaying New England, led just 17-9 at the half. With the Patriots down 20-12 with about four minutes left, Belichick elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Broncos’ 16-yard line. With DeMarcus Ware in his face, Brady threw a looping pass to Julian Edelman, who was crunched by Harris well short of the marker. The Patriots had another chance outside the two-minute warning, but a fourth-down pass intended for Gronkowski in the end zone went incomplete. And then they had yet another shot, at the very end, and this time they capitalized. Brady converted a fourth-and-10 with a 40-yard reception to Gronkowski with 1:34 left. And then on fourh-and-goal from the 4, he threw a prayer to his tight end again, who made a spectacular touchdown grab despite tight coverage from Harris.

Tom Brady is sacked by Broncos LB Von Miller.Joe Mahoney/AP

Tom Brady is sacked by Broncos LB Von Miller.

That set up one of the most dramatic two-point conversion attempts in NFL history. Brady was forced to roll right from the pressure before firing a pass to Edelman… that was tipped by Aqib Talib and caught by Roby to end the defending champs hopes at a Super Bowl return.

“I never had any doubt,” Wolfe said. “I knew we were going to win. I knew last week we were going to win. I just knew.”


Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (c.) has a big day but can't haul in this pass, which is defended by Broncos Aqib Talib and Shiloh Keo.Charlie Riedel/AP

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (c.) has a big day but can’t haul in this pass, which is defended by Broncos Aqib Talib and Shiloh Keo.

peyton manning ,
tom brady ,
von miller ,
rob gronkowski ,
bradley roby ,
owen daniels ,
malik jackson ,
cj anderson ,
steven jackson ,
stephen gostkowski ,
gary kubiak ,
bill belichick ,
new england patriots ,
denver broncos ,
nfl ,
nfl playoffs ,
super bowl

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