AFC Conference Championship Recap
By: Joe Berra
After almost 5 months and over 260 games, we’re down to two. The Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos will meet in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on February 7th. It will mark the Broncos’ second trip to the big dance in the last three years, and Peyton Manning’s fourth trip there (2 with the Colts).
It was great day for me personally, going 3 for 4 on my picks. As you can read in my NFL Conference Championship Picks; I took the Patriots and the UNDER in the AFC Championship and the Panthers to cover and the OVER in the NFC. Let’s have a look at how the Denver Broncos punched their ticket to SB50.
The Patriots elected to receive the opening kickoff and got a quick 1st down before Brady missed a pass to Gronkowski up the middle on 3rd down to force a punt. Peyton Manning and the Broncos then moved the ball 83 yards in 11 plays, ending in an Owen Daniels 21-yard touchdown.
The next 3 possessions ended with punts, until New England challenged an incomplete pass resulting in a fumble. As was the flavor of the half, the Patriots quickly turned the turnover into 6 points two plays later after running back Steven Jackson punched in a 1-yard run. Place kicker Stephen Gostkowski would miss the extra-point, his first of the year, which would prove to be very costly.
The Patriots next possession following a Denver punt would end with a Von Miller interception which promptly turned into 7 points after Manning found Daniels in the endzone for his second score of the day. Points off turnovers accounted for half of the 26 first half points.
Let’s go back to Von Miller for a bit; he had a hell of a day recording 4 solo tackles (2 of those for losses), a tackle assist, 2 and a half sacks, 4 QB hits and a pass defended to go along with his interception. It wouldn’t be fair to leave out Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, who also had a fantastic game with 6 solo tackles (3 of those for losses), 2 tackle assists and sacked Manning twice.
New England’s next possession took 6:44 off the clock on a 13 play, 48 yard drive that ended with a 46-yard field goal. The half ended with a 52-yard Brandon McManus FG following three punts and Tom Brady’s second interception of the half. The 3-points gave the Broncos a 17-9 half-time lead.
The second half started with a Denver 3-and-out with the Patriots starting their first second-half drive on their own 33, ending in another field goal. Following 4 drives that ended in punts, the Broncos took almost 5 minutes off the board on a 10 play, 48 yard possession resulting in 3-points.
The Patriots sandwiched a Denver punt with two possessions in which they turned the ball over on downs, not able to convert on a 4th-and-1 and a 4th-and-6. After the second turnover on downs, the Patriots held the Broncos to a 3-and-out and zero yards, taking only 26 seconds off the clock giving Brady the ball back on the 50 yard line.
Tom Terrific was able to work some magic, matriculating the ball down the field, connecting with Rob Gronkowski for a 40-yard strike on a 4th-and-10 to give the Patriot faithful hope. Following two incomplete passes and a 6-yarder to Julian Edelman, the Brady-Gronk connection put 6-points on the board with a 4 yard TD. A two-point conversion is now needed to tie the score with the hopes of overtime after the failed extra-point in the first quarter…incomplete pass…failed 2-pointer.
After a failed onside kick, the Broncos get into their victory formation and after one kneel down…the Denver Broncos will represent the American Football Conference in the Super Bowl! Early lines at America’s Bookie have the Broncos a 4½-point dog with the number at 45. Stay tuned with the best offshore sportsbook to see where the line moves in the next 13 days leading up the kickoff.
Didn’t get a chance to see the NFC Championship? Have a look at how the Panthers beat the Cardinals in my NFC Conference Championship Recap.
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