The Denver Broncos defeated the New England Patriots 20-18 in an AFC Championship thriller that was decided when Tom Brady was unable to convert an across-the-body throw to Julian Edelman on a two point conversion. The game was one of the most exciting Brady-Manning matchups yet. Let’s break down the top five reasons the Patriots’ fight for a repeat championship came up short.
The first and most obvious reason is that Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point attempt after the Patriots scored their first touchdown. It was his first PAT miss since 2006. The most shocking part is that Gostkowski is arguably the best kicker the NFL has seen since Adam Vinatieri. It is mind blowing that he would miss a PAT attempt, in Denver of all places. Remember, the air is thin in the Mile High Stadium; it is usually a gold mine for kickers.
The second reason Brady and company will be partaking in their “annual pro ball bail out” is due to the fact the offensive line did not show up Sunday. Or maybe, they must have stretched out Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak to fit around all of their large bodies. The protection was nowhere to be found.
Now granted, New England’s offensive line had been banged up, but that is not an excuse. Brady was hit 23 times Sunday. That is more than any other quarterback has been hit this whole season, regular season or postseason.
The third reason the Patriots lost the game was because Manning ran the Denver offense like the Sherriff of old. He was in complete control and able to deliver a couple beautiful touchdown passes.
This segues into my fourth point, the Brady picks. Brady threw two horrible interceptions that killed the Patriots. How many times has the media trashed Manning for throwing picks late in playoff games against the Patriots? The answer is way too many to count.
Brady deserves blame regardless of the offensive line. It is not all on the kicker. Remember Manning’s kicker in Indianapolis, Mike Varderjagt? Varderjagt missed a 46-yard field goal against the Steelers that could have forced overtime in 2013. How about Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones catching a 70-yard touchdown against the Broncos a couple years ago in the playoffs? Manning has also had his fair share of heartache with teammates too.
The final reason that the Broncos are heading to Super Bowl 50 is because they are an unstoppable force on the defensive end. Their front seven and pass rush is just as intimidating as their secondary. The only times I can remember Brady being hit so much was when Patriots lost to the Giants in 2007 and to the Ravens in 2012.
The Denver Broncos are a very good defensive team, but they will certainly have their hands full in the Super Bowl. Cam Newton is much more elusive than Brady. The Carolina offensive line has also done an excellent job protecting him this season. If Peyton expects to retire on top, he will have to count on his defense pressuring Newton the way they successfully harassed Brady on Sunday.
Eddie Leonard is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He tweets @EddieLeonard23.