Postgame thoughts from Bill Belichick: “We needed to score more points.” That about sums up the analysis right?
Okay another Brady/Manning game is on the books, it was exciting until the very end as expected, and (sadly) there’s only one game is left before the Super Bowl. I’m going to go jump over to David Lengel’s liveblog of the NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. You should too. That’ll be it from me, thanks for following along with me this afternoon, especially those who contributed (sorry I couldn’t fit everyone in). Ciao!
New England Patriots
It was a great season for the Patriots, it’s impressive that they made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game despite losing nearly their entire defense. As predicted before the game started, the Broncos offense was able to take advantage of this defense, especially without Talib. The better team won here, no doubt.
DENVER BRONCOS ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL
They will face whoever wins the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks coming up next.
Patriots 16-26 Broncos, 2:00, FINAL SCORE
On 3rd and 2, the Patriots defense gets a stop here and good for them, but the Broncos keep their offense on the field. On 4th and 2, Ball picks up five yards for a new first down and then Manning takes a knee and it’s victory formation time in Denver!
Patriots 16-26 Broncos, 2:00, 4th quarter
Ball picks up 5 yards. New England burns out its final timeout. If this were baseball I’d make a “candlesticks are always a great gift” joke. Play resumes, on 2nd 5, Ball takes it 3 yards to the New England 17 and we’re at the two minute warning.
Patriots 16-26 Broncos, 2:48, 4th quarter
Montee Ball runs for three yards and New England uses a timeout. On 2nd and 7, Manning hits Julius Thomas, a 23 yard catch and New England calls another timeout, possibly exchanging stories about how everyone’s going to enjoy their winter vacation.
DENVER RECOVERS ONSIDE KICK! Patriots 16-26 Broncos, 3:07, 4th quarter
The Patriots have no choice but to go with the onside kick… which is recovered for Denver by Eric Decker.
TWO POINT CONVERSION IS NO GOOD! Patriots 16-26 Broncos, 3:13, 4th quarter
Vereen gets stuffed before the goal line, and that will do it for New England.
TOUCHDOWN! Patriots 16-26 Broncos, 3:13, 4th quarter
But Vereen gets them 11 yards, the Patriots are at Denver’s 30. It’s now a bit quieter here in Denver, but just a tad. Austin Collie runs off for 18 yards, they’re at the Denver 12. Brady to Edelman to the 5, Brady up the middle! TOUCHDOWN!
Patriots 10-26 Broncos, 4:47, 4th quarter
Vereen gets 9 yard, Edelman (having a fine game) gets 11 yards on the next throw and… almost throws an interception here on 1st and 10 on the Denver 41.
Patriots 10-26 Broncos, 6:14, 4th quarter
Brady gets hit by Danny Trevathan and his pass is incomplete. 2nd down and 10. Brady finds Edelman who only gets eight yards. 3rd and 2… Edelman catches it and take it to their own 39. Not dead yet.
Patriots 10-26 Broncos, 7:00, 4th quarter
The Patriots will start from their own 20.
Now they just need to do that again, at three times the speed, twice. No biggie right?
Field goal! Patriots 10-26 Broncos, 7:00, 4th quarter
On the first two drives here, Manning gets it to Moreno for two straight drives of a yard each and his third down throw is… incomplete. The Broncos bring the field goal unit in and Prater’s 54-yard attempt is good and, perhaps most importantly, the Pats have just seven minutes to get two touchdowns with two two-point conversions.
Patriots 10-23 Broncos, 8:35, 4th quarter
Trindon Holiday brings the kickoff 4 yards so the Broncos start on their 25. Manning’s first pass is… oof almost an interception. A “Sliding Doors” moment that. Instead, Manning’s second pass hits Julius Thomas and that takes them to New England’s 38 yard line and that might be the game already.
Well, she won’t have words with her husband’s receivers for that drive, at least.
TOUCHDOWN! Patriots 10-23 Broncos, 9:26, 4th quarter
On 4th and 3, Brady and Vereen… connect for 12 yards! 1st and goal on Denver’s 7. Brady’s first pass to Edelman is incomplete but not his second attempt. TOUCHDOWN Patriots!
The extra point is good, but is it already too little too late?
Patriots 3-23 Broncos, 10:06, 4th quarter
The Patriots are at Denver’s 26, if there were five quarters to work with this would be a better sign for New England (okay, so that’s not how quarters work but still). Brady’s first down throw to Edelman, but he connects with Vereen for 7 yards. It’s 3rd and 3 on the 19.
Patriots 3-23 Broncos, 11:12, 4th quarter
Well that’s something there, Brady hits Collie for 20 yards to put them into the Broncos 42 yard line. Next pass? Brady hits Edelman for 16 yards. Denver’s Sylvester Williams is hurt on the play.
Patriots 3-23 Broncos, 12:02, 4th quarter
Tom Brady throws to Michael Hoom- Michael Hoom-uh-a-not-going-to-be-playing in the postseason anymore for an 18 yard completion.
Patriots 3-23 Broncos, 12:02, 4th quarter
I’m guessing the Patriots aren’t going to be doing much running on this drive. Prater’s kickoff is another touchback. They’ll be starting at their 20, but a celebratory feel is spreading like wildfire in the stands.
Field goal! Patriots 3-23 Broncos, 12:07, 4th quarter
So, it’s 1st and 18 on the Patriots’ 18 but Manning connects with Welker for a 16 yard pass anyways. The Patriots just can’t stop them on 2nd/3rd and long. It’s 2nd and 2 now, but Manning… can’t seal the deal in the end zone. They settle for Prater field goal, but that’s still more time off the clock.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 13:53, 4th quarter
Devin McCourty temporarily prevents a touchdown, as Manning, from the 22 yard line now after the penalty, throws to Julius Thomas who picks up 14 yards to the New England 8. The next play… Another holding penalty on the Broncos.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 15:00, 4th quarter
Now the question is: Score the touchdown immediately or draw it out to drain the clock. There are worst places to be. Julius Thomas picks up a holding penalty on their first play of the quarter.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, end of the 3rd quarter
The All-Thomas show continues as Manning throws to Demaryius Thomas, that’s 30 yards and they’re already deep into New England territory. Ball picks up 7 yards to the New England 12 and that’s the end of the third quarter.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 1:40, 3rd quarter
And that sacks puts Denver on its own 39, so Knighton’s play is key. Ball loses two yards on 1st and 10. So on their own 37, Manning throws to Julius Thomas for 14 yards, to establish a new set of downs and the clock keeps bleeding its way to the end of the quarter.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 2:25, 3rd quarter
Unless something crazy happens, you’re probably right.
But sometimes crazy does happen.
TURNOVER ON DOWNS! Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 2:25, 3rd quarter
The Patriots go for it, because they have to at this point. Brady is SACKED by Terrance Knighton! A loss of 10 yards! Turnover on downs!
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 2:30, 3rd quarter
He at least giving Denver a scare here, that can’t be denied.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 2:30, 3rd quarter
Ridley runs, picks up 8 yards on first down to the Denver 28. 2nd and 2, Ridley gets pushed back for a yard. 3rd and 2, Vereen drops a pass- No, no, it’s ruled incomplete but it’s a…
Gulp… It’s a 4th and 2 situation. Denver takes a timeout.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 4:20, 3rd quarter
Brady’s first pass to Dobson, isn’t complete, but Vereen gets nine yards on the next play, they need just one yard here for a very big first down. On Denver’s 38, Brady just squeezes in to pick up two yards and this is New England’s best drive of the game.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 5:29, 3rd quarter
Ridley picks up five yards, New England is at its own 41 but Danny Amendola just flat out drops what would be a first down. Eep, they can’t afford that. Brady’s next throw is to Collie, and it’s complete, and the Patriots make it into Broncos territory.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 6:39, 3rd quarter
Vereen picks up three yards to make it a 3rd down situation… And Collie makes a reception there for the first meaningful Patriots first down in what seems like an hour, 7 yards to put New England on their own 36.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 7:52, 3rd quarter
Hey Tom Brady, it’s been a while. Brady throws to Dobson for six yards.
The moral, as always, always defer if you win the opening coin toss.
Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 7:52, 3rd quarter
Another touchback. Patriots have a big drive here from their own 20.
Absolutely. Also: If anyone has been doubting how big of a part of the Patriots defense Talib is, just look how the Broncos offense went from tough to unstoppable when he was out.
TOUCHDOWN! Patriots 3-20 Broncos, 7:55, 3rd quarter
Broncos get a first down at the Patriots 15, Moreno rushes for seven yards to get to the eighth. 2nd and 3 and Manning actually throws the ball incomplete? That happens sometimes? Montee Ball picks up the first down on the next play, getting them closer to the endzone and taking more time off the clock. 1st and goal at the 3, and Manning targets Demaryius Thomas again and THAT is a BRONCOS TOUCHDOWN! The extra point is good, and New England is in big, big trouble.
Patriots 3-13 Broncos, 9:59, 3rd quarter
Manning throws to Julius Thomas and- yep- that would be a first down.
Patriots 3-13 Broncos, 9:59, 3rd quarter
So, 3rd down and 3 on the New England 20. Does anyone not think they’re going to convert this one?
Absolutely. This might be the game.
Patriots 3-13 Broncos, 9:59, 3rd quarter
Aqib Talib is “questionable” to come back, and in a related story so are the Patriots if he can’t. Manning connects with Decker for 8 yards, that puts Denver at New England’s 27. Moreno picks up three more yards on the new first down, Manning hits D. Thomas for four yards, they’re at the 20 now and Denver calls a time out.
Patriots 3-13 Broncos, 12:33, 3rd quarter
Manning goes into no-huddle, kinda a weird time for that but okay, it’s working. Manning throws to Thomas for 15 yards and just like that Denver is at the New England 40. Nope, 35 now after a Montee Ball run.
Patriots 3-13 Broncos, 13:56, 3rd quarter
Okay, so on 2nd and 9 for realsies, Manning and Decker connect for 18 yards to make it to their own 39, and then Moreno picks up six yards and this is just knife-through-butter now.
Patriots 3-13 Broncos, 14:31, 3rd quarter
The Broncos start on their own 20 after a touchback. Moreno picks up a yard on 1st down on second down and nine… there’s offsetting penalties apparently.
From Michael Philip Aston:
Long way to go, at some point, Pats will surely get a break and we all know how the Broncos can flip that switch from unstoppable to just awful, and when they collapse, they tend do it in long spells… what is it about Pats games that seem to be determined so often by officials?
Not so far this game oddly enough, you can tell from Belichick’s reactions.
Well, they’re running aren’t they? (Oh wow, note to self: trademark a version of American Football where players have to crawl or walk on their hands.)
In honor of another great half of football from Peyton Manning, here’s an ode to his favorite playcall, with noted NFL expert Michael Stipe.
From Steven Miller
hey guys…enjoyi g the chat…i had a bet on the coin toss…was it heads or tails please
It actually landed on its side, which, somehow, the Denver Broncos predicted. They’re just that sharp today.
The weird thing was that at no point did it feel like Manning wouldn’t find a way to convert that situation into a new first down, there’s a confidence about this Denver offense that’s scary to face. (Especially with Talib on the sidelines, we’re seeing how much of a big part he is on this Patriots defense.)
I’m not shocked it’s a 10-point game, but the fact that is a 3-13 game is a tad surprising. The good news for the Patriots? Well that’s better than being on the wrong side of 24-0.
Patriots 3-13 Broncos, end of the 2nd quarter
The Patriots have two timeouts and 30 seconds from their own 20 after a touchback. Brady’s first pass is incomplete, Brady’s second pass is incomplete but there’s an offside penalty on the defense on the play to give him a do-over.
But his next pass, to Austin Collie, is short and a five-yard completion to Shane Vereen does nothing but pad the stats as it’s halftime.
Field goal! Patriots 3-13 Broncos, :30, 2nd quarter
3rd and 5 on the New England 21, Moreno just picks up 4 yards so the Broncos will settle for a field goal here. Prater’s 35 yard field goal is good, which might be the best case scenario for New England after that frightening drive.
Patriots 3-10 Broncos, :47, 2nd quarter
This is Manning at his best. A pass to Andrew Caldwell nets 11 yards and another first down. At the New England 26 now and the clock’s really the biggest defensive threat here in the sequence. He throws to Ball, who picks up 3 yards. At the 23, Welker picks up two yards and Denver calls a timeout.
Patriots 3-10 Broncos, 1:33, 2nd quarter
So Welker’s 23 yard catch is nullified and the Broncos have a 2nd and 21 at their 19, seemingly a good spot for New England if they can avoid allowing a Peyton Manning big play. That’s easy right?
Oh not so much, Demaryius Thomas runs for 26 yards to pick up a first down, and on Denver’s 36, Manning passes to Thomas again for another first down, 27 yards to the New England 37 and Thomas is so exhausted after those two plays he has to tap out.
Patriots 3-10 Broncos, 2:00, 2nd quarter
Aqib Talib is back on the sidelines, but not on the field. Big loss if they lose him for the second straight AFC Championship Game. Manning hands off on first down but Moreno gets taken down for a loss of yard. On second down, Wes Welker makes a nifty catch… but it comes back after an offensive holding call on Chris Clark. We’re at the two minute warning.
Patriots 3-10 Broncos, 3:00, 2nd quarter
Remember how Denver deferred after the coin toss? Seems big now, with Denver getting the ball to start the second, New England needs to stop Denver from scoring before halftime or it’s going to be a tough road. Gostkowski’s kickoff leads to a touchback here.
Field goal! Patriots 3-10 Broncos, 3:00, 2nd quarter
Patriots on the Denver 18, man this crowd is loud and… BRADY IS SACKED! It’s a loss of eleven, Robert Ayers in the defensive play of the half!
Patriots have to settle for a field goal, Gostkowski’s 47 yarder is good but it could have been a lot worse for Denver.
Patriots 0-10 Broncos, 3:41, 2nd quarter
After the time out, Brady throws to Edelman who squeezes out two yards before a key stop from Denver’s Danny Trevathan. That’s going to be 3rd and 8 for New England who take a timeout.
Patriots 0-10 Broncos, 4:57, 2nd quarter
Vereen gets 13 yards for another Patriots first down. Blount gets them three on first down, the Patriots look like they’re trying to take my advice here, and on second down Brady throws to (okay I’m going to blatantly cut-and-paste this one) Michael Hoomananawuni for15 yards. The Patriots are at the Denver 20, Blount gets no gain on the next play but there’s an injury on the field for Denver, Shaun Philips is down.
Patriots 0-10 Broncos, 7:20, 2nd quarter
Brady connects with Aaron Dobson, welcome back, who catches it for 27 yards. 1st and 10, Blount gets about three yards on second down which puts the Patriots at exactly midfield.
Considering Decker’s success hooking up with Manning this season, we’ll probably be seeing forced quarterback/receiver carpools all across the NFL.
Patriots 0-10 Broncos, 7:50, 2nd quarter
My expert opinion here is that the Patriots should think about scoring on this drive.
Another punt, another touchback. They’ll be starting on their own 20.
I would hope that, all things considered income-wise, Manning doesn’t force Tamme to spring for gas ever.
TOUCHDOWN! Patriots 0-10 Broncos, 7:55, 2nd quarter
Montee Ball again gets the, er, ball, giving him 9 yards to the New England 2. Ball just gets the first down on 3 and 1 and then tight end Jacob Tamme catches it for the first touchdown of the game! After an extra point is good, the Broncos will b giving the ball back to the Patriots down by ten.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 10:31, 2nd quarter
Manning can’t get anything done on his first two downs at New England’s 39 yard line, but the Patriots defense give Moreno a wide-open space to run the ball, gaining 28 yards before Alfonzo Dennard finally stops him at the Patriots’ 11.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 10:39, 2nd quarter
Moreno gets two yards before being tackled, Montee Ball takes off for 12 yards and at this rate the Patriots are going to get the ball next sometime in the third quarter.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 11:35, 2nd quarter
Broncos at their own 33, Manning and Thomas connect for three yards and Virgil Green gives them six. 3rd and 1, Manning’s pass incomplete BUT there’s holding on New England and it’s 1 and 10 on their own 47.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 13:31, 2nd quarter
Talib leaves under his own power. It’s 3 and 9 and Manning makes a fluttering pass that should have absolutely no hope, but somehow Wes Welker makes the play (also Kyle Arrington had an easy interception there, everything is going right for Denver this drive).
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 13:36, 2nd quarter
Moreno makes up for some of those yards with a 11-yard run that gets the Broncos to their own 18 yards. Moreno only gets a single yard on the second down before brought down by Jamie Collins. Denver’s in no huddle, Manning’s pass to Demaryius Thomas is incomplete but bad news for the Patriots as Aqib Talib is down on the play.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 15:00, 2nd quarter
On 4th and 16 the Patriots bring out the punting team here, probably the best move. Ryan Allen’s punt will have the Broncos starting around their own 7 yard line.
Absolutely, and limiting time of possession is probably the best defense you can play against both of these QBs, keep them off the field.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, end of the 1st quarter
Watch this end up being like a 13-10 game at the end of four quarters after all of the hype about the offense.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, end of the 1st quarter
Oof, not good news for Denver here as Rodgers-Cromartie is down with injury on the field.
It’s 3rd and 20 now for the Patriots, who only pick up four yards on a pass to Edelman, which puts out of realistic field goal range as the quarter comes to an end.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, :56, 1st quarter
On Denver’s 33, Ridley makes no gain on first down, Brady’s second down pass to Edelman is also short… Brady’s third down pass to Austin Collie gives them eight yards but there’s a pass interference call on New England.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 2:15, 1st quarter
Brady passes to Shane Vereen for 24 yards, but Edelman can’t quite pull in his 1st and 10 pass at the Patriots’ 44. Stevan Ridley pics up five yards on second down and then Brady throws one deep to Edelman at the Broncos’ 33. Okay this is looking more like the Patriots/Broncos offenses that I’m familiar with.
Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 3:43, 1st quarter
Prater’s kickoff goes out of the endzone for a touchback. And we have a timeout.
I hope not, Seattle deserves this, especially after Oklahoma City stole Kevin Durant from them.
Field goal! Patriots 0-3 Broncos, 3:48, 1st quarter
But the Broncos can only pick up a yard on three downs, Prater makes a field goal to put them on the board first but the Patriots defense has to be happy to keep Denver out of the endzone.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 5:08, 1st quarter
Okay now the Broncos offense is cooking: On 3rd and 10, Demaryius Thomas goes off on a 29 yard run to the Patriots 29 and then Manning hits Decker for 19 yards and in just two plays the Broncos have a 1st and 10 at the New England 10.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 7:19, 1st quarter
Erick Decker makes a fair catch of Allen’s punt will have the Broncos starting at their own 18. After Manning-to-Thomas gets the Broncos six yards, Moreno makes a one-handed grab and goes on a 18-yard run to their own 42.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 8:05, 1st quarter
Another three-and-out for Brady and the Patriots, Matthew Slater can’t make a grab on a 3rd and 3 after Tony Carter deflects it. Another punt.
The first “Omaha” joke of the liveblog, and it won’t be the last after last weekend’s Skip Spence Memorial Game.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 9:35, 1st quarter
Britton Colquitt’s punt results in a touchback, the Patriots will once again start on their own 20.
Email from Michael Philip Aston on the problem with predicting today’s games:
Both games today, the most difficult to predict in years… most expect the Broncos to pull it off (Just) but with Bellicheck needing just one more win to become the most successful HC in (playoff)history and the iceberg that is Brady after #4 ring…, i wouldn’t put money on the boys in orange..Omaha and out! Just my gut..I loathe the Pats btw… 49’ers continue to be my pick… Going to be a grand day of football.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 9:35, 1st quarter
Manning’s first pass to Welker is productive, he picks up a short pass for 6 yards, but Hightower pushes Moreno for a loss of five yards on the next down and Manning’s pass to Decker is incomplete on 3rd and 9 and the Broncos’ opening drive will also end on a punt.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 11:33, 1st quarter
And Manning connects with Decker again, who picks up 21 yards before Aqib Talib can finally stop him, getting the Broncos to midfield.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 12:14, 1st quarter
Peyton’s first pass is to Julian Thomas who picks up five yards, Knowshon Moreno gets three yards and on 3rd and 2 Manning finds Decker (expect that to happen a lot this game too) for 7 yards and a first down to Denver’s 30 yard line.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 13:39, 1st quarter
Ryan Allen’s first punt of the game pins the Broncos at their own 15.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 13:43, 1st quarter
Brady-to-Edelman for four plus yards to start the Patriots drive, imagine we’ll be seeing that a lot this afternoon. Brady hands off to Blount, who gets stopped for no gain, and on 3rd and 5 Brady fires a pass that’s swatted away by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and it’s a three-and-out to start the game.
Patriots 0-0 Broncos, 15:00, 1st quarter
We’re starting off. Matt Prater’s kickoff results in a touchback so the the Patriots will be starting at their own 20 yard line and we are off folks. I’m excited, won’t lie.
Thanks but all of that should go to Paolo, I’m mainly here for out-dated “Brett Favre throws lots of interceptions” jokes.
The Editor makes his call:
I honestly think that it doesn’t matter who wins this afternoon, because Seattle is going to crush whoever they face in the Super Bowl. (And a rush of a people bet money on the San Francisco 49ers as winning the late afternoon game upon hearing my prediction.)
The Broncos win the coin toss, and Denver wins and decides to defer. Which is like my only NFL strategy: Always defer.
Paolo brings up a decent point here:
In defence of Brady, his SNL sexual harrassment skit was pretty funny:
We’re seriously ready for the game already
Peyton Manning: America’s greatest pitchman
While Brady vs Manning is a debate as far as their quarterback skills are concerned, there’s no question who is the better comic actor (especially if you’ve seen Tom Brady’s disastrous SNL hosting gig). As an example here’s some of the best moments of the best pitchman in the NFL (although opposing fans ended up shouting that “Cut. That. Meat” line back at Manning):
My colleague Paolo has pretty much already made my day by finding this, which is somewhat badass.
As good as the Patriots have been doing all year of getting by without all of their offensive weapons they had over the last few seasons and with a defense that’s been filled with practice team players, the football version of awards show seat-fillers and random big people that Belichick has run into on the streets, that’s not going to be enough against this Denver Broncos teams. It should still be competitive though. I’m guessing 34-31 Denver? Just for the symmetry considering their regular season loss’s final score.
4th and 2
Along the way today, if there’s time I’ll be throwing out scenes from past Brady/Manning contest. Believe it or not, there was a time when the theory was that the Patriot where in Manning’s head, that’s how little success he had against Brady and Belichick with the Indianapolis Colts. That narrative was dead and buried after this moment, where Belichick’s decision to go for it on fourth and two late in the game eventually cost them the win when they failed to convert. Since then, “fourth and two” has been used as an example of what happens when a coach outthinks himself:
Denver Broncos Inactives
And Wes Welker will be playing, despite his concussion issues. It should at least be an interesting story, especially since Welker has suggested that he and New England head coach Bill Belichick didn’t get along towards the end of his run with the Patriots. (Yeah, shocking, that guy seems super-easy to get along with, right?) I’m not sure how much he will be a factor this afternoon as a player, however.
New England Patriots Inactives
The good news here for Patriots fans is that it looks like wide receiver Aaron Dobson will be playing today which could give New England’s receiving core a bit of help. Chances are if Brady is going to have to feed it almost exclusively throughout Blount, or other running backs, once again, the Broncos will have a decisive advantage.
So this year’s AFC Championship Game match-up pits the New England Patriots against the Denver Broncos and I know what you’re thinking, hey if only there were storylines for this game (searches in vain for a sarcasm font). Let’s be honest, there’s really not anything new to say about Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning: the two best quarterbacks of their generation, possibly all-time, are facing each other’s team in the postseason, for the fourth time, a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
While we’re all pretty much sick of that narrative, which deems the other players on each roster as irrelevant (important guys like Brady’s former favorite receiver Wes Welker, now with Denver, or New England runningback LeGarrette Blount, their Divisional Game MVP). Still, despite that caveat, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that once the talking heads shut up and the actual games start, these meetings actually seem to live into the hype. In the words of Sports on Earth’s Jeb Lund:
Meanwhile, regardless of which one is which, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are probably the greatest and second-greatest quarterbacks in history, and they’ve been thwarting and elevating each other’s destinies for a decade… All the pregame packages and subjective, criteria-free in-studio arguments about CLUTCH and LEGACY and TIES and TWITTER are like an especially pompous waiter at a fancy restaurant, who insists on making a production out of bringing you what you’re there for. Ignore them. It’s tempting to hatewatch and complaiiiiiin — Lord knows, I sometimes can’t help it — but it’s not the point. The AFC and NFC Championship games are going to be a fantastic, luxurious meal. Let’s shut up and eat.
I mentioned this last week when they were hyping the Patriot’s Divisional Game against the Indianapolis Colts as the continuation of a long-standing rivalry was less between the two teams and more about the two quarterbacks. Not that this would preclude a rivalry between Tom Brady and Manning’s successor Andrew Luck, something which we may see after a postseason clash that featured Luck at his best (that late game bomb to LaVon Brazill) and at his most green (four interceptions). The Patriots eventually beat the Colts 43-22, but it wasn’t quite the romp that that final tally would suggest, as the Colts cut it to a one-score game in the third quarter.
The final score for the Denver Broncos’ 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers last Sunday is perhaps even more deceiving, as the Broncos kept Philip Rivers and company off the scoreboard completely before the Chargers gave them a big scare in the fourth quarter. Needless to say, Denver can’t afford to have the same defensive lapses against New England, especially considering their regular season match-up where the Broncos took a 24-0 lead into halftime, taking advantage of the fact that Patriots’ first three drives all ended in turnovers, only to eventually lose 34-31 in overtime when New England recovered their own punt to set up a game-winning field goal.
While it’s really impossible to predict anything in games featuring these two quarterbacks, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this afternoon’s playoff game will not be a repeat of that game. In fact, if history tells us anything it’s that this game won’t be like any of the others in the past (how is that for a paradoxical sentence?). As always we’ll be using your thoughts, questions and comments throughout the liveblog, you can email them to [email protected] or tweet them to @HunterFelt. it’s the New England Patriots facing the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game at Sports Authority Field. Opening kickoff is at 3:00 EST/8:00 GMT but we’ll be back well beforehand, in the meantime, if you hurry, you have a shot at getting in your prediction on our Talk Board.