Denver Broncos advance to Super Bowl 50 with 20-18 win over Patriots

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DENVER — Peyton Manning isn’t done just yet. Now, the 39-year-old quarterback has another chance to win an NFL championship.

With Manning’s two touchdown passes to tight end Owen Daniels and a late escape by the Denver Broncos defense, the Broncos defeated the New England Patriots 20-18 in the AFC Championship Game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, advancing to Super Bowl 50.

Denver faces the winner of the NFC Championship Game (kickoff time 6:40 p.m. ET) between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

New England scored with 12 seconds remaining but couldn’t convert on the two-point conversion to force overtime.

It also potentially was the final chapter of an epic rivalry between Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Sunday was the 17th meeting between the surefire hall-of-fame quarterbacks. The match-up was pegged, appropriately, as Brady vs. Manning XVII.

Manning turns 40 in March, and while he had not revealed his future plans going into the AFC title game, there had been wide speculation that this season could be his last. Manning’s numbers have dropped (he threw nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 10 games during the regular season, a far cry from his hall-of-fame worthy career stats), and his health and arm strength have been concerns. He missed six games this season with a partially torn plantar fascia in his left heel.

But Manning showed he has something left. He came out firing on Sunday, connecting with Daniels for a 21-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter. It was just the second passing touchdown at home this season.

Early in the second quarter, Manning found Daniels again for their second touchdown of the day, this one for 12 yards. Manning’s line for the day: 17 of 32 passing for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

It shockingly was Brady, not Manning, who had terrible numbers on Sunday.

Brady, who coming into this game had been playing some of the best football of his career and is one of the front-runners for the NFL Most Valuable Player award, was intercepted twice in the second quarter. His passer rating was a horrific 18.1 in the first half. Manning’s, comparatively, was 103.8.

But you should never count out Tom Brady.

Despite a putrid first half by the New England Patriots quarterback, Brady recovered in the second and almost forced overtime, finding tight end Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone with 12 seconds remaining.

But that’s as close as they would get. Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby picked off Brady’s pass on the two-point conversion. Denver recovered New England’s onside kick to seal the win.

Brady finished the day 27 of 56 with 310 yards and one touchdown.

This was Brady’s 10th career AFC Championship Game, the most ever by any quarterback in the Super Bowl era.