For a moment there, at the end of the regular season, it looked like the Football Gods were smiling on the Denver Broncos. Peyton was back and seemingly healthy; they secured home-field advantage, and the road to the Super Bowl looked, if not easy, doable. Then the Steelers came to town and made the Broncos look, well, not good. Suddenly, the Patriots and Tom Brady loomed, and despite the fact that this team had consistently pulled off big, though wins, the pundits, the fans, the oddsmakers …no one seemed to believe this team could do it again.
Say hello to the Denver Broncos, the AFC representative at Super Bowl 50.
It wasn’t easy, no. No one actually expected it to be. But with a smart, gutsy performance from supposedly-too-old to win Peyton Manning, an inspired game-plan by Assistant Coach of the Year Wade Phillips, and tremendous play by the number one defense in the NFL, the Broncos are going to their eight Super Bowl, tying the Cowboys, Patriots and Steelers for most all time.
You want to know when I knew they were meant to? When Peyton Manning ran the longest he’s ran in years. Twelve yards. First down. And a team that finally has the right mentality to win the Super Bowl.
The Broncos have been here before. They’ve had better teams. At the end of this game, when the defense kept stopping the Patriots over and over on fourth down, and yet, the Patriots never quite gave up, it looked like this game was going to go the other way. Momentum is a real thing. Tom Brady is a damn good quarterback. Rob Gronkowski is a big time receiver. And yet, Denver, like it’s done all year, on the back of a monstrous performance by Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, just took what the Patriots were dishing, stood there, and made the big plays. Over and over again.
Defense wins championships, they say. Defense and the football goods? Well, you never know, but at least, on this day, it was enough to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. It was enough to cement Peyton Manning’s place in football history. It was enough for Denver to get one more shot at glory.
Will it be enough in two weeks? Who knows? But, for now, this has to feel pretty damn good.
GAME BALLS TO
The Denver Broncos defense, Von Miller in particular. He made a big pick, had 2.5 sacks, four QB hits, two tackles for a loss, and he was in Tom Brady’s face all day. The defense was so disruptive that Brady threw two interceptions and failed to complete even 50% of his passes for the first time in his career. Put that in perspective. The first time EVER. When the Broncos drafted Miller, this is exactly what they had in mind.
The Broncos will play the winner of the NFC Championship game in Super Bowl 50, to be played in Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers on February 7th, 2016 at 6:30 PM ET.