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Broncos win to set-up Brady vs Manning

Posted Jan 17, 2016

The two best quarterbacks of the past twenty years will once again square off on Sunday as they battle to reach Super Bowl 50.

At the end of an unpredictable weekend - thick with twists and turns, tipped passes, Hail Marys and failed comebacks - an outcome that is all too familiar. For the 17th time in their NFL careers, and the fifth in the postseason, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet on the gridiron.

They were supposed to square off in the regular season, on 29 November, before Manning was sidelined by a torn plantar fascia. News outlets asked at the time whether we would ever see them play against one another again. Many of us were still pondering that question as Denver’s offense sputtered through the first half of their divisional playoff game against Pittsburgh on Sunday night.

The Broncos trailed by one as they entered the fourth quarter, and with 10 minutes to play Pittsburgh were driving in Denver territory. But then cornerback Bradley Roby jarred the ball loose from the hands of Fitzgerald Toussaint and DeMarcus Ware recovered it. Taking over on offense, Manning led his team on a 65-yard drive that ended with CJ Anderson forcing his way into the end zone from one-yard out. The Broncos never looked back.

This had hardly been a vintage performance from Manning, but it was still one of the best he has delivered this season. If his final numbers - with 21 completions on 37 attempts for 222 yards - were underwhelming, then they failed to reflect how often his receivers had let him The Denver Post counted seven dropped passes, and six in the first-half alone. down. The Denver Post counted seven dropped passes, and six in the first-half alone.

It was also the first time all season that Manning had avoided throwing an interception in a game that he started. He is more game manager than game winner these days, and the reality is that the Broncos’ hopes of success against New England next week will rest more on a defense that gave up the fewest yards per game in the regular season. In that context, a possible aggravation of cornerback Chris Harris Jr’s shoulder injury might have been the true story of the night.

But it is the latest chapter (the final one, surely), in Brady and Manning’s rivalry that will generate the most hype. It is the fourth time that they have met in a conference championship game - the most of any quarterback pairing. Little wonder, the New York Daily News termed it “the greatest rivalry in NFL history”.

Three more things you might have missed

- The Bengals were not sad to see Pittsburgh eliminated.

- Demaryius Thomas rescued the game ball for his mother, watching him play for the first time ever following her release from prison - where she had been held for 15 years on a drug trafficking sentence.

- The people running the Panthers’ Twitter account have some fun with actor Rainn Wilson.

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