The Denver Broncos were able to defeat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game for the second time in three seasons on Sunday, prevailing 20-18 behind an incredible performance by the Bronco defense. However, it is very hard to argue that Peyton Manning was the better quarterback in this game and that he is better than Tom Brady over the course of time.
Denver held Tom Brady to just 27 completions on 56 attempts and allowing just one touchdown pass while also surrendering just 44 total rushing yards to the Patriots. The story of the game, however, was the play of Denver’s All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller, who recorded 2.5 sacks, and nine total tackles (4 solo, 2 for loss). Miller and the rest of the Broncos front seven were constantly penetrating the New England backfield and putting tremendous pressure on Tom Brady all afternoon, inevitably leading to two interceptions and multiple missed throws by the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Despite facing the incredible pressure in his face all afternoon, Tom Brady still threw for 310 yards, including a 40-yard deep ball to Rob Gronkowski on a fourth down and 10 on New England’s last drive of the game, keeping the Patriots alive.
Peyton Manning, meanwhile, was clearly not his vintage self, but still put together a 176-yard, two touchdown performance and did enough to allow his defense to guide Denver to the win. Manning did not play great, but he did not do anything to drastically hurt his team such as throwing an interception deep in his own territory, etc. Manning did throw an incomplete backward pass deep in his own territory that was recovered by New England and led to a Steven Jackson touchdown run, but that was pretty much the only big mistake Manning made all day long. It is also hard to really put much of the blame on Manning for the backward pass, as Ronnie Hillman made a very poor effort when attempting to catch the ball and then gave up on the play and didn’t bother to pick up the ball.
Following the game, Twitter was quick to blow up with Memes of Brady, Manning, and even Eli Manning, who is known to be a Patriot killer:
Couldn’t help but post this…… pic.twitter.com/KyDAslfPEX
— Dave Rothenberg (@RothenbergESPN) January 25, 2016
Peyton Manning came out on top on Sunday and is heading back to the Super Bowl, so hats off to the Denver Broncos and hats off to him, but here are the simple facts of the matter:
Tom Brady had no offensive line, as Von Miller seemed to be rushing into the New England Backfield at will. Manning faced his fair share of pressure from the New England pass rushers but it was nowhere as effective as Denver’s pass rush on Tom Brady.
Brady also had multiple receivers leave the game at one point due to injury or cramps (Gronkowski, Edelman) and was constantly knocked to the ground by an elite defense all day long. Despite all of that, Brady still brought the Patriots down the field in the final minute on a touchdown drive, and the Patriots were a failed two-point conversion away from forcing overtime and possibly returning to the Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning is obviously a great NFL quarterback and is easily one of the top-5 or 10 who have ever played the game. Yes, he came out on top on Sunday in a battle of two heavyweights and is about to have a shot at winning his second Super Bowl, but if it were not for the incredible performance by the Denver defense there is absolutely no shot that the Manning would be heading to Santa Clara instead of Tom Brady. Denver had the ball nine times in the second half of Sunday’s game with seven possessions resulting in punts, one resulting in a field goal, and the other being the final kneel down. One cannot justify that this offensive performance in the second half by the Denver Broncos allows them to deserve a spot in the Super Bowl, as on most days, offensive numbers such as this in the second half of an AFC Championship game normally result in a lopsided loss. The performance by the Denver defense in this win, however, was simply outstanding and for that, the Broncos do deserve to play in the Super Bowl. It should be interesting to see how Peyton Manning fairs against an elite defense such as Carolina or Arizona, but Denver’s defense should allow them to at least stay in the game.
Brady may be the better quarterback out of he and Peyton Manning, and he was forced to do a lot more than Manning was during the loss, but Sunday’s game proved that there is no doubt that the Denver Broncos defense is far more superior to that of the Patriots. Brady may be better than Manning, but Von Miller and Wade Phillips got the best of Josh McDaniels.