Playing in the their third AFC Championship in three years, the Patriots came out flat against the Denver Broncos and lost 26-16 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium. The story of the game for the Patriots was the lack of offense especially in the first half, when they scored just 3 points.
Tom Brady’s arch rival, Peyton Manning worked the clock the entire game, and kept the chains moving, against the Patriots defense that had been missing key components all season long. One of the better defensive players for the Patriots, Aqib Talib left in the first quarter, after a hit from former teammate, Wes Welker. After the injury, Manning was able to pick apart the New England defense.
On the first drive of the game, the Patriots went three and out, but Punter Ryan Allen, had a great punt that started the Broncos inside their own 20. Peyton and the Broncos offense were able to get a first doen before being stopped by the Patriots defense. But when Tom Brady was given the ball again, he was unable to make anything happen, and again went three and out.
On the ensuing drive, Manning led the Broncos down field and settled for a field goal that gave the Broncos a 3-0 lead. Again Brady was unable to do much of anything, and Peyton led the Broncos down field this time leading his team to the endzone for a 10-0 lead. That lead was too much for the Patriots to come back from.
At half time the game was 13-3, and everyone could tell the Patriots didn’t have it going on. This wasn’t a game that was being played in Gillette in 10 degree weather, but rather in Denver in 60 degree weather. There was no way Peyton would blow this lead, and he didn’t. On the first Denver drive of the second half, Peyton took about half of the 3rd quarter to drive the ball down field and score another touchdown, giving the Broncos a 17 point lead.
Down 26-10 with just over 3 minutes to play, Tom Brady rushed into the endzone himself to cut the score to 26-16. Knowing they were down two touchdowns and two, two down conversions, the Patriots tried a draw play with Shane Vereen to make it a one possession game. The conversion failed, and everybody on the Patriots knew the game was over.
It’s the second straight year the Patriots have lost the AFC Championship game, and it’s now 9 seasons since the franchise last won a superbowl. The win gave Peyton Manning a .500 record in the playoffs for his career and sends him to his 3rd superbowl. The Patriots will be watching from TV as the Broncos will play at MetLife Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks in the first, and probably only, cold weather Super Bowl.
Tom Brady and the Patriots, will now take six months off before regrouping and trying again next year.