Manning, Brady to meet in AFC championship game

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DENVER — The last time Tom Brady and the New England Patriots came to Denver, Peyton Manning watched the game on television from inside the locker room.

Not next Sunday, though. The Broncos quarterback will take in his customary spot in the huddle.

Manning meets Brady for a 17th time – with a trip to Super Bowl 50 at stake.

Perhaps it’s only fitting these two quarterbacks meet in the AFC title game, since Manning didn’t get to suit up against New England on Nov. 29 because of a foot injury. That game was a thriller, too, with Brock Osweiler leading the Broncos to a 30-24 overtime victory.

Manning’s foot is healed – at least as healed as it’s going to get for now – and he guided the Broncos to a 23-16 win over Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Brady is still vintage Brady, passing, bootlegging and QB sneaking the Super Bowl champion Patriots past the Chiefs on Saturday and into the AFC title game for a fifth straight season.

Brady’s Patriots opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite over Manning’s Broncos.

Manning didn’t want to start reflecting on the rivalry with Brady right away. “We’ll deal with that on Wednesday,” he said.

Manning is now 12-13 in the playoffs over his career. This one, though, possibly means a little more, given his comeback from a foot ailment that sidelined him for six weeks.

“It’s been a unique season, a lot of new things have happened this season, kind of like tonight,” said Manning, who replaced Osweiler in the season finale, leading the Broncos to a win over San Diego to secure the No. 1 seed. “We stayed patient tonight. We never really got frustrated and that served us well tonight and it served me well this season.”

Denver surrendered 339 yards passing to Roethlisberger, who entered the game with a sore shoulder. The challenge doesn’t get any easier.

Brady has long gotten the better of Manning, who is 5-11 lifetime against his counterpart, but 2-2 in the playoffs, including a win two years ago in this stadium.

“I’m honored to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to playing next week in the AFC championship,” Manning said.

But this is hardly the same Manning anymore. He doesn’t rely on his arm nearly as much as his ability to decipher schemes. He also leans heavily on the running game.

And Denver’s top-ranked defense, too.

“Our defense is guiding us. Let’s make that clear. They played great all season,” Manning said. “They were dominant today against a high-powered offense.”

Manning and Brady were paired on this stage following the 2013 season, when the Broncos held on for a 26-16 to advance to the Super Bowl.

It was a game that may be best remembered for a hit by Wes Welker on Aqib Talib, which knocked the then-Patriots cornerback out of the game and opened up things for Manning, who threw for 400 yards that afternoon.

Talib is with the Broncos now and a big reason for the success of the defense.

“We’ve had a lot of different players contribute to our success when we’ve been successful,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “I told them it would take them all today. It sure did. It will continue to take all of us as we move forward.”

Brady has one of his security blankets back in Julian Edelman, who returned from a broken foot on Saturday to help the Patriots beat Kansas City. Of course, Brady also has tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“They’re one of the best teams in the AFC,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “Let’s go out and play and see who wants the Super Bowl.

 

Bennett doesn’t fear backlash for skipping White House trip

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HOUSTON (AP) Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett says he is not worried about upsetting team owner Robert Kraft by not attending New England’s trip to the White House as Super Bowl champions.

Bennett said after the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons on Sunday night that he’s “not going to go” to the traditional meet-and-greet with the president. It will be the first visit of a Super Bowl champion to Washington since Donald Trump was sworn into office.

Trump’s positions have alienated some athletes, which has raised questions about whether some might choose to skip the trip while the new president is in office.

But Bennett said he isn’t concerned about it and thinks the team believes “in whatever I want to do.”

Kraft is a supporter of Trump and attended a celebration dinner in Washington for him the night before his inauguration.

Patriots’ Tom Brady earns 4th Super Bowl MVP trophy with epic comeback

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HOUSTON (AP) The greatest quarterback in NFL history led the biggest Super Bowl comeback to be the MVP on Sunday night.

Tom Brady rallied New England from a 25-point third-quarter deficit for a 34-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history to earn his fifth Super Bowl title and fourth MVP trophy.

“They’re all sweet,” he said. “They’re all different and this was just an incredible team and I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he said.

Brady threw touchdown passes of 5 and 6 yards in the second half and tied things at 28-28 when he connected withDanny Amendola on a 2-point conversion with 57 seconds left.

He then directed the drive in overtime which ended with a 2-yard run by James White to make the Patriots the first team to win a Super Bowl after trailing by more than 10 points.

“We all brought each other back,” he said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle.”

His performance certainly wasn’t without its struggles. His incredible second half and overtime came after a first half where the Patriots managed just three points and he threw an interception which Robert Alford returned 82 yards for a touchdown. He was hurried and harassed for much of the games. The Falcons sacked him five times and hit him on another eight occasions.

He noted the beating he took when he was trying to recount the details of the comeback and couldn’t remember what the score was at one point in the rally.

“There was a lot of (stuff) that happened tonight,” he said. “I got hit pretty hard.”

His 466 yards passing are a Super Bowl record, surpassing the 414 yards Kurt Warner had 17 years ago. He also set a record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl with 43 and most attempts with 62.

He is the first to play in seven Super Bowls and the victory ties him with Charles Haley for most Super Bowl rings.

After all Brady has done in his career, was this his finest moment?

“Tom’s had a lot of great ones,” coach Bill Belichick said. “But, yeah tonight was one of them.”

It’s a triumphant end to a difficult season for Brady, who missed the first four games because of his “Deflategate” suspension and dealt with his mother Galynn Brady suffering through an undisclosed illness. The Super Bowl was the first game she’s attended all season.

“They’re all happy,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s nice to have everybody here and it’s going to be a great celebration tonight.”

He shared a quick moment with her right after the game, but was looking forward to more time with her in the upcoming days.

“It’s kind of madness after the game so I didn’t get much quality time with her but we’ll get it this week,” he said.

But he certainly wasn’t asking for sympathy for his rough road to this title though, chuckling when someone asked about the adversity the Patriots have gone through in the past couple of years.

“We’ve done pretty good over the last few years … so I don’t think anyone’s feeling bad for the Patriots,” he said. “I don’t think anyone feels bad for the Patriots.”

Brady also collected the MVP trophy in 2001, 2003 and 2014.

“It was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this one for the rest of our lives,” Brady said.

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