Peyton Manning leads Broncos to Super Bowl with victory vs. Patriots
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter January 19, 2014 4:58PM
Updated: January 19, 2014 10:42PM
DENVER — It was a family moment.
Peyton Manning, wearing his AFC Championship shirt, bearhugged younger brother Eli. Seconds later, big brother Cooper was waved over from across the locker room and received his hug and several pats on his behind.
Reporters stared and jockeyed for pictures. Former NFL safety John Lynch made sure to whip out his cellphone for his own snapshot of history.
The first family of football is back in the Super Bowl, thanks to Peyton Manning’s brilliantly efficient performance in the Denver Broncos’ 26-16 victory Sunday against the New England Patriots.
‘‘You definitely have to take time to savor the moment,’’ said Manning, who was 32-for-43 for 400 yards, two touchdowns and a 118.4 passer rating. ‘‘I know I certainly will, being in my 16th season, going to my third Super Bowl. I know how hard it is to get there.’’
Plenty of factors played into the Broncos booking their trip to Super Bowl XLVIII against the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, who beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17, on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Broncos’ defense played well, especially against the run (64 rushing yards allowed) and in key moments against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (sacked twice). Broncos kicker Matt Prater made 27-, 35-, 19- and 54-yard field goals. Manning’s offen- sive line deserves praise for not allowing Manning to be sacked or even hit. And Brady made some very un-Brady-like throws, missing open receivers for potential touchdowns.
But the victory was a Manning moment because he beat Brady, evening his playoff record against him at 2-2, and methodically dismantled Bill Belichick’s defense on a big stage after struggling against it through his career.
It was a Manning moment because he’s not too far removed from missing the entire 2011 season after having multiple neck surgeries or from saying goodbye to the Indianapolis Colts and hello to the Broncos.
‘‘I had some doubts and I had some worries, for sure,’’ Eli said about his brother. ‘‘But he stayed strong and fought through it. He was determined to get back and get back to a level he wanted to, and he probably came back better than ever.’’
It was a Manning moment because he might not play after this season if his neck is at risk.
‘‘When you know you don’t have a ton of [games] left, you really kind of soak it up,’’ Cooper said. ‘‘I think everybody that retires wants one more shot. He’s glad to get it.’’
Manning, who will turn 38 in March, is the third quarterback in NFL history to lead two teams to the Super Bowl. He beat the Bears in 2006 and lost to the New Orleans Saints in 2009 with the Colts.
A Super Bowl finish is an appropriate way for Manning to complete a record-setting season individually, too.
‘‘With Peyton, not much amazes me anymore,’’ Eli said.
Eli said he thought his brother ‘‘was on his game the whole day.’’ Manning connected with eight receivers as the Broncos opened leads of 23-3 and 26-10.
Manning had completions of 37, 30, 29, 27, 26, 23 and 21 yards as the Broncos put up a whopping 507 yards of total offense. Demaryius Thomas led the receiving corps with seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.
Manning’s biggest completion may have been his 37-yard strike down the sideline to tight end Julius Thomas. It was a bold statement after Brady got the Patriots within 13 points with more than nine minutes remaining. Four plays later Prater made his 54-yarder.
‘‘I have a lot of respect for [Manning],’’ said Brady, who was 24-for-38 for 277 yards and a touchdown. ‘‘He is a great player, and he played great today.’’