Denver defense, Manning beat Pats to Super Bowl

Mon Jan 25, 2016 11:33am EST
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - Peyton Manning outgunned great rival Tom Brady as the Denver Broncos, behind a ferocious defense, edged the defending champion New England Patriots 20-18 on Sunday to book their place in Super Bowl 50.

During the buildup to the AFC championship game in the Mile High City, the spotlight was fixed on Manning and Brady, the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who were meeting for the 17th, and perhaps final time on the gridiron.

But it was the Denver defense that stole the show, intercepting Brady twice in the opening half and making two crucial fourth down stops late in the fourth quarter to snuff out potentially game tying scoring drives, including one with just 2:18 on the clock.

The Patriots, however, would not quit and with 12 seconds left Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a four-yard touchdown pass.

Needing a two-point convert to force overtime, the Denver defense again dug in, with Bradley Roby stepping in front of Brady's pass attempt to preserve the victory and a spot in their record-equalling eighth Super Bowl.

Manning, who had been plagued by injury and questionable form all season, turned in a performance worthy of a five-times NFL Most valuable player, tossing a pair of first half touchdowns to Owen Daniels.

"To be going to our second Super Bowl in four years is very special and just an awesome effort by our entire team," Manning, who will become the oldest quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, told the Denver crowd. "And what an incredible effort by the Patriots, for us to beat that team today, a very special win."

"It's been a special rivalry (with Brady) over the course of our career ... I just wanted to take the time to share with Tom (Brady) and Bill (Belichick) how much respect I have for them and just what special coaches and players they are."   Continued...

Jan 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) drops back to pass against the New England Patriots in the first quarter in the AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports