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Here is a recap of Championship Sunday of the 2016 NFL Playoffs with a Monday Afternoon QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles. The Snow Storm in the East Coast has delayed our articles & we do apologize.
Patriots 18, Broncos 20
Denver Broncos free safety Bradley Roby (29) runs with the ball after catching a tipped pass on a failed two-point conversion by the New England Patriots during the second half of the AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
DENVER (AP) — When Peyton Manning was watching games from the locker room a few months ago, none of this seemed possible.
Manning back on the field, playing the role of the most decorated game manager in history.
Manning churning his 39-year-old legs around right end for a 12-yard gain and a first down.
Manning back in the Super Bowl.
The strangest season of No. 18’s Hall of Fame-ready career will play itself out all the way to the last game. Manning and the Denver Broncos are heading to the Super Bowl, thanks to his efficient offense and a big-play defense that saved a 20-18 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday.
“It’s been a unique season,” Manning said. “And this game today was a unique football game.”
Manning’s third-quarter scramble for a first down — “The run,” he called it, using air quotes — might be the most celebrated scramble by a Broncos quarterback since John Elway helicoptered in the Super Bowl, 18 years ago. It was certainly the most unexpected.
“He’s going to do what he has to do to win,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s one of the greatest competitors ever in this league.”
That play helped flip the field early in the second half for the Broncos (14-4). Then, defense saved the day.
Manning’s fourth trip to the Super Bowl wasn’t wrapped up until cornerback Bradley Roby picked off Brady’s pass on a 2-point attempt that would have tied it with 12 seconds left.
Brady hit a double-covered Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone on fourth down from the 4 to set up the potential tie. The Patriots had to go for 2 because Stephen Gostkowski pushed an extra point to the right in the first quarter — his first miss in 524 tries.
“All day, these guys put their bodies and lives on the line, and for me to come out here and miss a kick, it’s a nightmare scenario,” Gostkowski said.
That left it to one play, and after the Broncos took a timeout to give DeMarcus Ware time to rest and get back in the game, Aqib Talib stepped in front of Brady’s pass and deflected it skyward.
Roby, who forced the game-changing fumble in last week’s victory over Pittsburgh, made the pick. The Broncos recovered the onside kick and the celebration began.
Manning improved to 6-11 in his vaunted series against Brady, but 3-1 with the AFC title on the line. Manning surpasses Elway as the oldest quarterback to take his team to the Super Bowl. The Broncos will play Carolina, a 49-15 winner over Arizona in the NFC game.
New England (13-5) came up short and won’t get a chance to go back-to-back and win a fifth Lombardi Trophy.
The Patriots lost their last two regular season games to squander home-field advantage. In a game that came down to one play, that may have made a difference. Another possible factor: Bill Belichick’s decision to pass up short field-goal attempts twice in the fourth quarter while trailing by eight.
“Because of the scoring situation in the game,” Belichick said.
They’ll have the winter to debate it in New England.
In Denver, the season goes on.
Whether it’s been Manning lining up under center, or Brock Osweiler, who took snaps while Manning was injured for six weeks, the Broncos have depended on a defense that gave up the fewest yards in the NFL.
Von Miller finished with 2 1/2 sacks and an interception. The Broncos harassed Brady into a 27-for-56 day for 310 yards and two picks.
After giving it up twice on downs inside the Denver 20 late in the fourth quarter, Brady lobbed a 40-yard pass to a double-covered Gronkowski on fourth-and-10 to keep the late TD drive going.
But the Broncos barely held on, and the franchise is now headed to its eighth Super Bowl. The last trip was ugly — a 43-8 loss to Seattle two years ago.
His 17-for-32 performance Sunday was not Vintage Manning. But 17 completions were enough, and the two most important were touchdowns to Owen Daniels, the tight end who has played his whole career with Kubiak.
“He understands where he is and what we’re trying to do offensively,” Elway said of his veteran QB, who has a chance to walk off a champion, the way No. 7 did. “He has always been a great game manager, but even more so now.”
Manning was far from perfect. A dump-off screen to Ronnie Hillman went backward, and New England’s Jonathan Freeny recovered. Two plays later, the Patriots were on the board — but with six points, not seven, because of Gostkowski’s miss.
A strange twist? Yes, but the Broncos are used to those by now.
Manning’s scramble was a 180-degree difference from last January, when he pulled up and threw in the playoff loss against the Colts despite a huge swath of open space in front of him. Some thought his career might be over after that game.
Nope. Not after this one, either. There’s at least one more game in his future — Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, California.
“I’ve really tried to take it one week at a time all season long, through the injuries and all the things that have gone on,” Manning said. “I’ve stayed in the moment. Stayed patient. That’s served me well.”
Cardinals 15, Panthers 49
Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton celebrates a first down run during the second half the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Superman is bringing his cape and his pen to Super Bowl 50. He’s leaving behind his camera.
“Yeah, we are going to the Super Bowl. We are not going just to take pictures,” Cam Newton said Sunday after leading the Carolina Panthers into the big game with a 49-15 rout of Arizona for the NFC championship. “We are trying to finish this thing off.”
That would be against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in two weeks.
“Playing the sheriff,” Newton said of Manning. “We’re going to live in the moment right now. We’re going to be excited.”
Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others, and Carolina’s big-play defense stifled Arizona’s top-ranked offense. The 49 points were the most for an NFC title game winner.
The NFL’s new top man at quarterback — Newton is an All-Pro this season — goes against five-time MVP Manning. Carolina is favored by four points.
“We’ve been dreaming about this moment since Day 1,” Newton said. “Our pen has a lot more ink left.”
It will be Newton’s first trip to the Super Bowl and the second for the Panthers (17-1), who lost to New England 12 years ago. Denver, of course, has made a habit of going to Super Bowls, reaching it for a record-tying eighth time.
And while the Broncos’ defense carried it past New England 20-18 for the AFC crown, Carolina’s D was just as destructive. It picked off Carson Palmer four times, forced two fumbles by him, and never let up the assault.
Special teams also had a takeaway, and when Carolina grabbed a 24-7 halftime lead this time, it didn’t back off, as it did in nearly blowing a 31-point margin a week ago vs. Seattle.
When Newton flew into the end zone for a 12-yard third-quarter touchdown — no, he didn’t have the cape on — he posed like a superhero, dabbed a bit, and pointed the Panthers toward the Bay Area.
Newton finished with 335 yards passing and 47 rushing as Carolina won its 13th straight home game, including three in the playoffs.
One of his biggest helpers was Ted Ginn Jr., who was dumped by the Cardinals after last season. Ginn had a 32-yard punt return to set up his weaving 22-yard TD run, and chased down All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson to prevent a second-quarter touchdown. He also had 52 yards on two receptions.
“Yes, it was personal,” Ginn said. “My team knew it was personal.”
Carolina’s defense did the rest, most notably making Palmer uncomfortable in the pocket and turning Larry Fitzgerald, the star of last week’s overtime victory against Green Bay, into a virtual non-entity. It led the league with 39 takeaways, and at times it made an Arizona team that gained more yards than anyone look amateurish.
“We wanted to come out and play a complete game and I think the guys up front played exceptional,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “There was pressure all day.”
Capping the barrage was Kuechly, who returned an interception 22 yards for a score. The 49 points were the most this season for Carolina, which led the NFL with 500. The last time a team scored as many in a conference title game was 1990: Buffalo 51, the Raiders 3 in the AFC.
The scoring started quickly, as it did for the Panthers against the Seahawks. Newton hit four passes for 35 yards on their opening drive and Graham Gano hit from 45 yards for a 3-0 lead.
Criticized for being too conservative against Green Bay, Palmer let it fly from the outset. He just connected too many times with the Panthers.
“I kept digging us in a hole and we just couldn’t come out of it,” Palmer said.
Ginn’s 32-yard punt return set up the Panthers at the Arizona 49. Six plays later, he took a pitch from Newton, headed left and broke a tackle by Justin Bethel. Just as quickly as he was surrounded by red shirts, the swift Ginn emerged to cut across the field into the end zone for a 10-0 lead.
Nearly as swiftly, it was 17-0. Newton fired a dart to Philly Brown. Another botched tackle, this one at the Carolina 47 by Rashad Johnson, left Brown with nothing but unprotected turf.
Arizona finally moved into Carolina territory, only to see Kawann Short sack Palmer and strip the ball.
The Cardinals kept trying, and put together a 79-yard scoring drive on which David Johnson starred after an ignominious start. He was plastered by All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis for a 6-yard loss on the first play of the series, then came back to gain 25 yards, including a 1-yard TD dive.
Davis, who already had six tackles, left with a broken right forearm during that drive.
“I will do whatever it takes (to play),” he said of the Super Bowl.
Peterson made a huge muff trying to field a punt later in the second period. Jonathan Stewart ran for 17 and 23 yards — more missed tackles by the Arizona defense — and Newton leaped to extend the ball over the goal line from the 1.
He followed with a dab or two, handed the ball to a fan in the end zone, and ran to the sideline to chants of “MVP! MVP!”
There were plenty more of those during the trophy celebration, and fans danced in the stands as the loudspeaker played “Shout.”
Palmer was performing like anything but an MVP.
On Arizona’s first play after Peterson’s muff, Palmer was sacked and fumbled. Newton gave it back when Peterson picked him off and ran 72 yards to the Carolina 23 — and Palmer gave that one back with a weak throw Kurt Coleman intercepted in the end zone.
At one point, the Cardinals had turnovers on three consecutive plays: the muff, Palmer’s fumble, and Coleman’s first of two picks.
“We’re Thieves Avenue,” Coleman said.