AFC Championship Game – Patriots vs Broncos Preview

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While most of the focus goes to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady meeting in the postseason once again, there’s a lot more to this conference championship game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, meeting for the second time this season.

When the two teams met for the first time this season, the Patriots were hosting the game. The Broncos were up 24-0 at halftime, but the Patriots came back to win 34-31, holding Manning to 150 yards, a 52.8% completion percentage and a 70.4 passer rating, his worst numbers in a season that for him was about breaking records. Manning broke Brady’s previous touchdown record in a season of 50, finishing with 55.

Despite the pedirgree of both quarterbacks, it might be the running game that will decide the game. The Patriots focused on running the ball in their 43-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts, and got 166 rushing yards with four touchdowns from LeGarrette Blount. Stevan Ridley, the team’s leading rusher in the regular season, rushed for two touchdowns as well, which makes it quite difficult for Denver to know where it’s going to come form. Tom Brady was sacked 40 times this season, and Belichick has been clever enough to devise ways to take the pressure off of him.

Manning has Knowshon Moreno to help him relieve some pressure. Moreno rushed for 82 yards along with a touchdown in the 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers, but he has also improved in his receiving capabilities, catching 60 passes for 548 yards this season. Again a terrible run-defense team like the Patriots, a big day from him is going to be expected and crucial.

Interesting to know

  • The only instance in NFL history where Hall of Fame quarterbacks met in the postseason — and then later faced off against each other in a playoff game with 1 of them playing for a different team was between Joe Montana and Dan Marino. Montana (SF) and Marino (MIA) met in Super Bowl 19 as Montana’s 49ers won, 38-16. The two Hall of Famers then met in the 1994 AFC Wild Card game as Marino’s Dolphins defeated Montana’s Chiefs, 27-17. It was the last game of Montana’s career. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have met three times in the postseason when Manning was with the Colts. The Patriots won the first two games, Manning and the Colts came out on top in the third.
  • This will be the first road postseason game for Brady since the 2006 AFC Championship on Sunday, and he has thrown the same amount of touchdowns as interceptions on the road in his playoff career.
  • There have been 3 playoff meetings between the franchises, with the home team winning every time. The Patriots were the most recent winners, beating the Tebow-led Broncos 45-10 in the Divisional playoffs two seasons ago.
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