And then there were two. After nearly 5 months of games, Super Bowl 50 has its participants. A fantastic 2015 season saw one championship game that came down to the wire; the other not so much.
AFC Championship Game -New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos
There was plenty of hype building up to this rematch of the 2013 AFC Championship game. Of course, the main headline was Brady-Manning XVII, but it was the Collins-Miller match up that stole the spotlight. Not to take anything away from either quarterback, as Manning looked good in the first half and Brady was clutch in the second half, but Jamie Collins and Von Miller were all over the field for the Patriots and Broncos respectively.
The Broncos struck first, when Manning threw for 60 yards on the opening drive capping it off with a 21 yard touchdown pass to tight end Owen Daniels. New England answered shortly after with a Steven Jackson touchdown run after Ronnie Hillman failed to go after a ball thrown his way behind the line of scrimmage resulting in a turnover after a Patriots challenge. Problem was Steven Gostkowski, after making 523 extra points in a row, including 60 straight in the playoffs, missed the extra point which allowed the Broncos to hold on to the lead. After a Tom Brady interception, Manning found Daniels again for a 12 yard touchdown. The two teams exchanged field goals before the end of the first half, and the Broncos held an 8 point lead at the half. The two teams again exchanged field goals in the second half, and the Patriots, electing to go for it on 4th down twice late in the game instead of taking field goals still trailed the Broncos by 8 when the Patriots took over with 1:52 left in the game at midfield. That’s where Brady did what he does best, led the two minute offense down the field, and capped the drive off with a 4 yard Rob Gronkowski touchdown. The Patriots forced to go for two after the earlier missed extra point saw Tom Brady throw an interception on the attempt, and after a failed 2 point conversion saw their hopes of a repeat disappear with a 20-18 defeat.
Von Miller was the hero of this game for the Broncos. He had 4 tackles, a assist, 2.5 sacks and the interception that led to the Broncos second touchdown. He was all over the field on Sunday, and he and the rest of the Broncos defense completely shut down the Patriots running game. The Pats were held to 44 yards on the ground, and Tom Brady was their leading rusher. Om the other side, Jamie Collins had 6 tackles, 2 assist and 2 sacks, and was a big reason the Patriots were in this game despite the strong defensive outing by the Patriots. The Broncos head to the Super Bowl for the 8th time in franchise history trying them with the Steelers, Cowboys, and Patriots for most all time.
NFC Championship Game – Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers
Entertainment wise, this game didn’t deliver the same way the AFC Championship game did. In the Divisional round, the Cardinals started out slow and eventually turned it on and won. The Panthers played the opposite was last week, as the opened up and huge 1st half lead then let go of the gas, and managed to hang on for the victory. This game started out the same way the games last week did, as the Panthers were in full throttle and the Cardinals seemed to be sputtering. Apparently though, the Panthers learned their lessons last week and never let up.
Carson Palmer did his best Brian Hoyer impression in this game, as he was the cause of 6 turnovers (4 interceptions and a fumble). David Johnson appeared to be the only Cardinals that showed up for this game accounting for 128 scrimmage yards. Probable MVP Cam Newton was huge for the Panthers throwing for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns. Safety Kurt Coleman had 2 interceptions for the Panthers and linebacker Luke Kuechly had his second straight game with a pick 6. This game did not go as expected as it looked to be a competitive game that was going to bring the best out of both teams. We only saw Carolina’s best. The Panthers scored 17 first quarter points and never looked back, winning this contest by a final score of 49-15. Outside linebacker Thomas Davis for the Carolina Panthers broke his arm late in the game. He immediately had surgery on the arm because he wants to play in Super Bowl 50. Have to admire the determination.
The Carolina Panthers are the early Super Bowl favorites over the Denver Broncos, after their dominating performance of the Arizona Cardinals. It will be the 12th time that both the number 1 seeds will meet in the Super Bowl. Carolina is currently a 4.5 point favorite. Super Bowl 50 will be played in Santa Clara, Califorina on February 7th with a kickoff time of 6:30 P.M.
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