Who Will Win?
The Patriots won the toss and elected to receive.
It didn't take long for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to take a lead. They went 80 yards on 8 plays on the opening drive to give New England an early 7-0 lead. New England used a good mix of run and pass on the drive which was kept alive when Brady hit Danny Amendola for 25 yards on a third and 4 at the Broncos 41. On the very next play LeGarrette Blount bullied his way into the end zone for a 15 yard run.
The Denver Broncos found success marching down the field with the arm of Peyton Manning. He connected on his first 4 passes, picking up 53 yards including a 31 yard catch and run by Eric Decker. However on the 5th straight pass of the drive, Peyton was picked off by Alfonzo Dennard who returned it 41 yards to the Broncos 44, setting up Tom Brady with great field position
Facing third and 4, Brady was able to pick up the first down by completing a pass to Shane Vereen for 8 yards. Brady then found himself in another third down situation and was able to complete a pass to Amendola for 15 yards, but Amendola fumbled the ball after taking a huge hit from Danny Trevathan and Quentin Jammer was there to recover it. Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense took over at their own 12 yard line, and avoiding falling into a 10-0 or even possible a 14-0 early hole.
As the first quarter comes to a close, the Broncos offense was rolling as they picked up 3 first downs and were down to the Patriots 46 yard line.
End of 1st: Patriots 7 Broncos 0
The Broncos would go on to pick up two more first downs on the drive, and faced a third and 5 at the New England 11 yard line. Peyton Manning hit a wide open Andre Caldwell on a crossing route over the middle and the ball went in and out of hands as he was unable to hang on, and the Broncos had to settle for a Matt Prater 28 yard field goal.
This Broncos defense just had no answer for Blount on the following drive. Denver had a chance to force a 3 and out as the Patriots faced a third and 1, but Brady tossed it to Blount who was able to pick up 19 yards and a first down. After Brady picked up back to back gains of 14 yards, one to Vereen and one to Austin Collie, Blount ran for 14 yards, and then a 9 yard touchdown. This gave the Patriots a 14-3 lead.
Up to this point in the game, LeGarrette Blount had 7 carries, 68 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Needing a spark on offense, Manning went deep on the first play of the drive, and connected with Wes Welker for 27 yards down the middle, getting the Broncos to midfield. Again, Manning got the Broncos deep into Patriots territory, this time the 8 yard line, but the drive stalled out after Moreno picked up 2 yards on a third and 3, and Denver had to settle for another Prater field goal.
After picking up a first down, Brady was unable to convert a third down 3 plays later and the Patriots were forced to give the ball back to Peyton with just under 2 minutes to play in the half.
Eric Decker was able to pick up 12 yards on the punt, setting the Broncos up at midfield.
It took the Broncos 8 plays to pick up the 50 yards and the touchdown. Manning connected with Wes Welker for 6 yards on a slant route, making this just a 1 point game with 23 seconds remaining in the half.
The key to the drive was when Manning converted a third down as he dumped a screen pass off to Knowshon Moreno who took it all the way down to the 6 yard line for a 19 yard pick up.
With just 23 seconds and 1 time out, the Patriots surprisingly attempted to get into field goal range as Brady completed passes to Julian Edelman for 24 and 26 yard pick ups but Edelman was unable to get out of bounds on the second catch and the clock ran out.
At the Half: Patriots 14 Broncos 13
Very similar to the Patriots opening drive to start the game, the Broncos had a very impressive drive to open up the second half. Denver went 80 yards on 7 played, and was capped off by a Montee Ball 13 yard run right up the middle as he went into the end zone untouched. John Fox decided to go for a 2-point conversion as it would have made it a 7 point Denver lead, but Manning was unable to connect with Demaryius Thomas on a fade route to the back corner of the end zone. So Denver led 19-14.
Just a few minutes later, Brady attempted to throw a deep ball to Edelman who was in double coverage, and Brady was picked off by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, giving Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense the ball back at the Denver 20.
Despite not getting much time to breathe on the sidelines, the Patriots defense did a great job at holding the Broncos offense and forcing a punt.
Just as the third quarter was coming to a close, the Patriots were able to make this a 2 point game as Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 38 yard field goal. The Patriots used 8 plays to get into field goal range, and a key play was a Danny Amendola 23 yard reception on third and 7.
After 3: Broncos 19 Patriots 17
Again, the Patriots defense does a great job holding Peyton and forcing a Denver punt from their own 45. On third and 1, Aqib Talib did a great job knocking down the pass that was intended for Decker.
It took the Patriots just 4 plays to go 80 yards and take a 24-19 lead halfway through the 4th and final quarter. The drive started with the Patriots setting up a screen pass for Shane Vereen, who broke out of a Shaun Phillips tackle and found a ton of running room up the sideline and picked up 47 yards. Brady capped it off with a 14 yard strike to Edelman.
On the following drive, Peyton really got into a rhythm and started picking apart the Patriots defense. Peyton completed 6 passes on the drive, and on third and goal at the Patriots 11 yard line he completed a pass to Demaryius Thomas, picking up 10 yards. This set up a 4th and goal at the 1. Instead of taking the 3 points, the Broncos went for it to take the lead. The Broncos offensive line won the battle up front and Peyton handed the ball off to Moreno who found a little hole and dove into the end zone. He then took a inside draw up the middle to convert a 2-point conversion to put Denver up 27-24.
With 3 minutes left in the game, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense take over at the 20.
Brady started the drive with two straight first downs, on completions to Edelman and Amendola. The Patriots then faced a third and 2, and gave the ball to fullback James Develin who picked up 5 yards and the first down.
This took the clock down to the 2 minute warning, and the Patriots would have a first down at the Broncos 41 yard line, trailing by 3.
On third and 3, Brady hit Shane Vereen over the middle for a first down at the Broncos 34 yard line with less than 1:30 to go.
Facing yet another third down, Brady misfired a pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and that set up a game tying field goal for Gostkowski. This time he connected from 41 yards out.
Peyton Manning would take over at his own 20, with 39 seconds remaining and two timeouts.
After only picking up 5 yards on a screen pass to Moreno, the Broncos would burn their second timeout. The following play Manning hooked up with Julius Thomas for 18 yards and then Manning spiked the ball, stopping the clock at 15 seconds at the Broncos 43. Denver still had 1 timeout left.
The very next play, Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas on a throw to the sidelines. Thomas was able to shed one defender, and picked up a great block from Decker who created an open lane down the sideline and Thomas took it to the house 57 yards to give the Broncos a 7 point lead with just 4 seconds left.
After a squib kick the Patriots would just down it, taking over at their own 37 yard line, needing a miracle to tie this game up with just 1 play left. Brady threw a hail mary which came up about 10 yards shy of the end zone but the ball was batted down by Champ Bailey and the Denver Broncos advance to the Super Bowl.
Final Score: Broncos 34 Patriots 27
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