DENVER** — The Broncos jumped out to an early lead and held it for the duration, defeating the Patriots 20-18 to claim the AFC Championship and a spot in Super Bowl 50 against the winner of Sunday's NFC Championship Game between the Panthers and Cardinals.
After the defense contained a potent Patriots offense on its opening drive, the Broncos offense came out with an 83-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard strike from quarterback Peyton Manning to tight end Owen Daniels.
It took them a while against such a stout defense, but the Patriots would counter after recovering a Broncos fumble in New England's red zone. Running back Stephen Jackson powered through the line for the 1-yard score, but placekicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the PAT.
However, outside linebacker Von Miller would give the Broncos a leg up with an interception to set Denver up in the red zone. Manning would connect with Daniels once again for a touchdown, giving the Broncos a 14-6 lead.
Heading into halftime, the Broncos retained an eight-point lead after the two teams exchanged field goals.
New England was poised to respond after holding the Broncos to a three-and-out just yards from their own end zone, but the Patriots' drive stalled after crossing midfield, leading a field goal.
The third quarter was a quiet one for each team, with the Patriots kicking a field goal to cut into the Broncos' lead.
In the fourth, Denver came out looking for a knockout punch, and it seemed like it was headed that way after running back C.J. Anderson found a hole for a 30-yard gain. But the drive stalled in the red zone, leading to another field goal, putting the difference back to eight points.
With the Patriots looking to mount a game-tying drive with about six minutes left, they had the Broncos on their heels, missing both safeties, Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward, due to injury. But the drive ended on fourth down in Broncos territory, when a pass to Julian Edelman came up short
The Patriots would not go away and in the fourth quarter Brady connected with Gronkowski on two fourth down conversions, inculding a touchdown pass making the score 20-18
With New England lining up for the two point conversion, the Broncos defense pressured Brady and Bradley Roby came away with the game sealing interception.