Peyton Manning moved one step closer to a storybook-ending season with a mile high 20-18 upset over Tom Brady, and the much-maligned New England Patriots.
In typical Patriots fashion, they made sure to give Manning and Denver’s top brass heart palpitations with a last ditch 4th down TD to doubled covered tight end Rob Gronkowski and a chance to tie the game with a two point conversion. This dramatic moment came courtesy of New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s missed extra point in the first quarter, his first in 524 tries.
But Brady’s pass was deflected by one Denver cornerback, Aqib Talib, into the hands of another, Bradley Roby, and with seconds on the clock, a failed onside kick kept the Patriots at bay, and the Bronco’s Super Bowl bound.
Denver’s deadly defense befuddled Brady all day long, sacking him 4 times, forcing him to stay put in the pocket and throw uncharacteristic incompletions, along with a couple of picks. Kudos to Denver’s defensive coordinator Wade Phillips who outfoxed Belichick and Brady with his forever changing formations.
The Patriots fearsome receiving duo of Julius Edelman and Danny Amendola also couldn’t deliver under the duress of Denver’s secondary, a key element in the Bronco’s defeat.
Four weeks ago, Peyton Manning, on the sidelines in street clothes most of the year, stepped out of his humble back up role to rally his troops for a come from behind victory over the San Diego Chargers. I know, it was the 4-11 Chargers, but for a banged up veteran who could barely walk, it was a Rockyesque moment in his career.
Manning was mocked last week when his passes wobbled in the air against the Steelers, but he silenced the skeptics during Denver’s first drive in the first quarter when he fired a 21 yard pass to Owen Daniels for the first score of the game. He may have missed on a bunch of passing plays, but today the guy infamous for interceptions, had none, and along with being efficient with the football, in the 3rd quarter, he gave his team a taste of his 39 year-old legs with a 12-yard scramble for a crucial 3rd down conversion.
The Bronco’s running game was missing in action until early in the 4th quarter when C.J. Anderson with Louis Vasquez leading the charge, plowed through the Patriots defensive line to set up what proved to be the winning field goal.
This will be the former five time MVP’s fourth trip to the Super Bowl, in which he’ll attempt to match kid brother Eli’s two wins. It will not be an easy task against a Carolina Panther team that has the for certain this season’s MVP Cam Newton at the helm, who has a date with destiny, as well.
It was another week of Carolina game balls being given to little boys and girls seated behind the Panther goal post, cutaways of a perplexed opposing quarterback looking at his playbook, and a frustrated defense in heated discussions trying to decipher how to put a pin in Cam Newton.
The Panthers pummeled the Cardinals to a pulp Sunday night 49-15, answering the question, “Can they perform in the second half?” As Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha.” It was the most points for an NFC title winner.
Carolina almost matched their offensive first half assault over the Seahawks, scoring on their first three possessions.
Carson Palmer was dazed and confused from the first snap, and couldn’t snap out of it the entire game. His injured finger may have been hurting, but four interceptions and a couple of forced fumbles was not the match up one expected between the two Heisman trophy holders.
This was supposed to be the closer game of the two, but Newton and his dabalicious brothers had much different plans.
Ted Ginn Jr. did it on offense and Davis Sr. was defiant on defense until he was knocked out of the game. Ginn, who was discarded by the Cardinals after last season, showed Arizona what they were missing, and boy could they have used some of what he was cooking. He returned a punt for 32 yards, had 74 total yards and scored a TD.
Wide receivers Corey Brown and Greg Olsen topped Carolina’s receiving chart with 113 yards apiece, and for linebacker Luke Kuechly it was déjà vu from last week, with his consecutive pick six.
Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald had a mighty fall from grace, unable to follow up his prolific 176 yards receiving over the Packers. He had 30 yards on 4 carries, and would’ve had more if he could only hold onto the ball, which was the unfortunate fate of Palmer, whose passes were held onto by many Panther defensemen.
Carolina’s all pro cornerback Patrick Peterson had anything but an all-pro day. He could not prevent Carolina’s receiving corps from receiving, and then muffed a punt return for yet another Arizona turnover.
Super Bowl 50 will pit a veteran quarterback whose been there done that against a young gun who’s going to his first dance. Both teams have defense to die for, but it’s going to be difficult to bet on the sentimental Denver Broncos when the Carolina Panthers are holding a much better hand.