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Omahowyoudoin! Manning And Broncos Headed To Jersey

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Peyton Manning during the trophy presentations after the AFC Championship. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images.
Peyton Manning during the trophy presentations after the AFC Championship. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

Peyton Manning-led drives are so well-made that someone should build a museum showing video footage of them. Where? In Omaha, of course.

Sunday he added a few more exhibits. His best might’ve been a 10-play, 80-yard drive in the second half that took up 7:08. A first-half drive that ended in a touchdown also consumed seven minutes.

The Patriots made it closer with two late scores. How could it be otherwise? Tom Brady found his touch, and the Broncos revealed their weakness once again: a propensity to give up leads late. The Denver defense is much better in the first half than the second.

Flashback No. 1: One year and one week ago, the Ravens scored on a last-minute coverage lapse by the Broncos and lost. One week ago, the Chargers came back from the dead to make it a game. In both games, the Denver defense faltered at the end. The Broncos offense marched down the field to settle the San Diego game.

And in Week 12, the Broncos led 23-0 at halftime in Foxboro, but the Patriots came back to win. 

You kept wondering when the Patriots would make their run. It proved to be too little, too late. 

New England scored only a field goal through three quarters.The Patriots scored a touchdown with three minutes left, with Brady juking a guy to score a TD himself, but the two-point conversion run by Shane Vereen failed. That kept it 26-16, a two-score game. That would margin would require a near-miracle. 

Denver recovered the onside kick -- after failing to do so last week against the Chargers. After that, well, just try to stop Manning from getting a first down. 

Did the Broncos keep the ball on the ground at the end? Of course not. Manning passed to Jacob Tammy for a big gain and a first down, and that was pretty much it. The Broncos never gave the ball up, and it was time for Manning to enjoy a Bud Light. (In that, he was far behind Denver fans.)

The headline will say that Manning beat Brady. But of course it wasn’t quite that simple. The Denver offensive line did a great job protecting Manning, while Brady had to contend with a rush. Matt Prater made three field goals. 

And the Broncos defense played the game of the year. They got off the field and made some plays, especially sacking Brady on a fourth-and-two that might’ve been the biggest play of the game.

Of course, Manning did beat Brady. Manning was 32-of-43 for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Julius Thomas dropped a sure touchdown in the end zone. Brady’s numbers were not nearly so gaudy.

You could say the Patriots failed again. They haven’t won the Super Bowl since 2005. But I think they overachieved. They had injuries, had to deal with the Aaron Hernandez debacle and just didn’t have the breakaway threat at receiver. I think they’re just not as good as the other three teams playing Sunday. 

Denver had Eric Decker, Wes Welker and the two Thomases. New England, missing Rob Gronkowski due to injury, could not match that talent. Danny Amendola had no catches against the Broncos. Julian Edelman was the go-to guy, catching 10 passes for 89 yards, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Denver took away the run, and dared Brady and his receivers to beat them. LaGarrette Blount gained six yards on five carries, and the team rushing yardage was a measly 64.

The Broncos offense, with Manning, some great receivers and Knowshon Moreno, is unstoppable. But it will be going against an immovable object. So the Super Bowl will solve the age-old riddle.