In a gritty AFC Championship game that featured fewer quarterback heroics than expected, the Denver Broncos held off the New England Patriots on Sunday, notching a 20-18 upset victory and punching their ticket to Super Bowl 50.
The Broncos drew first blood when quarterback Peyton Manning found tight end Owen Daniels for the 21-yard touchdown. The Patriots scored just about six minutes later on a one-yard rush, but missed the extra-point attempt and entered the first quarter break down one.
Due in part to a less than-perfect performance from Tom Brady -- the signal caller was sacked four times and threw two interceptions -- the favored team could never quite climb all the way back.
The Broncos did, however, have a scare late in the contest. With just ticks remaining in the fourth period a New England touchdown gave the visiting squad the chance to take control of the game.
The score was 20-18, with Brady's Patriots lining up for the two-point conversion attempt. Brady got the pass off, but it was deflected as it reached the end zone -- an incompletion that effectively rendered New England's last touchdown moot. Just minutes later, the game went final and the Broncos were able to celebrate the upset on their home field in the Mile High City.
Of course, it was the Manning-Brady head-to-head matchup that was most discussed coming into Sunday's contest. Given both Manning's rough year and his inconsistent history in the postseason, many pundits and fans alike gave the pregame advantage to Brady.
But after all was said and done, it was Manning who came out on top, throwing fewer interceptions, more touchdowns and, to the utter joy of his teammates, even scrambling for a 12-yard first down at one point in the second half.
With the victory under their belt, Denver will go on to meet the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.