Wrestler Ric Flair is famous for saying, “If you want to be the best, then you have to beat the best.” In order for the Denver Broncos to reach the Super Bowl they had to defeat the best team in the AFC for the past decade or so. The New England Patriots have been to the AFC Championship game eight times in the Belichick and Brady era. They were standing in the Broncos way and the Broncos beat them handily to make their way to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Obviously, it was a team win but here are the standouts from Sundays action.
AFC West Playmakers Championship Addition:
The Broncos defensive game plan was to limit the run game and put the game in Tom Brady’s hands. In most cases this sounds crazy but on Sunday it was just crazy enough to work. Brady had opportunities to hit open receivers but missed and sometimes missed big.
Last week, LeGarrette Blount rushed for four touchdowns and 166 yards. The Broncos defense held him to six yards on five attempts. Keeping Blount and the rest of the Patriots running game in check changed everything the Patriots wanted to do and it was the fourth quarter before they could get their offense going any.
Manning is often criticized that his postseason play does not match his regular season performances. On Sunday, that was not the case. Manning threw for 400 yards, two touchdowns, and most importantly no interceptions. Manning lived up to his MVP caliber play in the regular season and was clearly on a mission. His naysayers will have to be quiet for now, but he can silence them permanently with a victory in the Super Bowl.
Manning stellar day in part was due to the performance of Thomas. Thomas came out motivated because he struggled against Aqib Talib in the prior meeting. The way he played, there may not have been any corner in the league that could have stopped him. He ended the day with seven catches, for 134 yards, and a touchdown. In a game that was not as close as the score indicated, Thomas helped the offense get comfortable early and they never looked back.
Photo Courtesy: AP/Joe Mahoney