The much anticipated showdown between two of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks never developed Sunday as Peyton Manning and the Broncos dominated Tom Brady and the Patriots from start to finish in a 26-16 AFC Championship match up victory. The Broncos built their lead to 20 early in the fourth quarter (and it really didn’t feel that close) as Manning was nearly perfect throughout, completing 32-of-43 for 400 yards, two touchdowns with no picks while running the Broncos offense to precision. Brady on the other hand missed several open receivers early in the game and never really seemed to hit his stride despite throwing for 277 yards on 24 of 38 passing. Manning was in complete control of the Broncos offense, carving up the Patriots D like a gifted surgeon with a combination of crossing routes, swing passes and sideline outs that kept the Patriots on their collective defensive heels throughout.
“There was something about him today, something great,” Broncos running back Montee Ball said. “I think it was how calm he was. He was just talking to us. He just went about his business. Just his mannerisms, everything he did, he was just calm out there.”
With the added pressure of supposedly having to “cement his legacy” Manning never looked better as he’ll now try to win his second Vince Lombardi Trophy in three tries on the field where little brother Eli plays for the Giants, Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, just as Eli won his second Super Bowl playing on Peyton’s home turf in Indianapolis. At 37 years of age and coming off of neck surgery in 2011 (he’s had 4 procedures on his neck) Manning amazingly shows no signs of decline, having just completed perhaps the greatest season ever by an NFL QB, in which he set throwing records for total yards and touchdowns (5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns).
The Broncos are an early 3-point favorite over the Seahawks for Super Bowl XLVIII, a game that provides the classic match up of the league’s best offense in Denver against the league’s top defense in Seattle. The wild card in this year’s version of the world’s biggest sporting event is of course the weather, with the game being played outside in New Jersey in February. Manning has had problems in the past in games in which the weather has been inclement, and any type of winter storm may limit what he can accomplish through the air. But I wouldn’t bet against the guy, no matter rain, shine or snow – it just seems to be his year.