AFC Championship Preview – Patriots Versus Broncos

Below is the official NFL media release for the AFC Championship game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (13-4) at DENVER BRONCOS (14-3) (Sunday, CBS, 3:00 PM ET)

The Patriots and Broncos will meet for the second time this season. In Week 12, Denver jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead before New England stormed back for a 34-31 overtime win.

For the 15th time in their careers, including the postseason, quarterbacks Tom Brady (New England) and Peyton Manning (Denver) will meet. Brady has guided the Patriots to 10 wins in those meetings.

“It’s the Broncos versus the Patriots,” says Manning. “Certainly Tom and I have played against each other a lot. But when you get to the AFC Championship Game, it’s about two good teams that have been through a lot to get there.”

The Patriots advanced to their 11th AFC Championship with a 43-22 win over Indianapolis in the Divisional round. New England is 7-3 in AFC Championship Games.

“It’s special,” says Patriots Pro Bowl special teamer Matthew Slater about playing in the AFC Championship Game. “Every year it’s special but this year we’ve been through so much. We’ve just found a way to rally around one another.”

In the Divisional win over the Colts, the Patriots rushed for six touchdowns, one shy of the NFL postseason record of seven set by the 1940 Chicago Bears (December 8, 1940). Running back Le Garrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns, joining Ricky Watters (January 15, 1994) as the only players to score at least four touchdowns in a playoff game. Blount is the first player in NFL postseason history to rush for at least 150 yards and four touchdowns in a game. Stevan Ridley added two rushing touchdowns for New England and also scored on a two-point conversion.

“I’m really confident,” says Blount. “Those guys in front of me, the offensive line, they don’t get tired. I’m not going to get tired either. So if we’re going to be able to continue running the football like that throughout the playoffs, then I’ll be happy with it.”

Brady made his NFL QB-record 25th start in the playoffs and recorded his 18th victory, also an NFL postseason record.

“It’s a great achievement for our team,” says Brady about advancing to the AFC Championship Game. “There are only four teams standing. I know people have counted us out at times during this year but I think we have a locker room full of believers. Hopefully we can go out and play our best next week.”

New England head coach Bill Belichick earned his 19th postseason win as a head coach, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula (19) for the second-most in NFL history. With a win on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, Belichick will tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Tom Landry (20) for the most all-time.

“I’m really proud of our football team and we’re looking forward to moving on to a bigger game next week,” says Belichick.

The top-seeded Broncos defeated San Diego 24-17 as Manning tossed two touchdown passes and running back Knowshon Moreno rushed for a score. Denver improved its record at home this season to 8-1, outscoring opponents 340-197.

“The Patriots have a great football team,” says Broncos Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. “They beat us a couple weeks back and our main focus is to see what they do to help them keep winning. We’re going to work on it this week and hopefully come Sunday, we get the W.”

Manning threw for 230 yards in the Divisional game and has 5,909 career passing yards in the postseason. Last week, he passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana (5,772) and Brett Favre (5,855) to move into second place all-time. Only New England’s Brady (6,147) has more.

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