Denver is back in the big game for the second time in three years after defeating the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. It was a game in which the Broncos never trailed as they controlled the game with an amazing effort from their defense. They pummeled Tom Brady for four quarters and rarely allowed him to make throws without getting planted into the Mile High dirt.
Tom Brady was hit a season-high 23 times Sunday. He hadn't taken more than 12 hits in a game this season prior to Sunday.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 25, 2016
But despite netting just 12 points through the first 59 minutes of the game, Brady would rally the Patriots by hitting All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone on fourth down in the closing seconds. That pulled the score to 20-18, but Bradley Roby picked off Brady's pass on the 2-point attempt that would have tied it with 12 seconds left, and Denver would recover the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
This will be the eighth Super Bowl Denver has made, which is tied with the Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most all-time. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be making his fourth Super Bowl appearance, trailing only Brady (6) and John Elway (5) in NFL history.
As fun of a thriller as that game was, the NFC Championship would have no such intrigue as Carolina dismantled the Arizona Cardinals. It was a game in which the Panthers also never trailed and dominated throughout on both sides of the ball. Cam Newton tossed two scores and ran for two more to carry the offense.
Multiple rush & pass TD in same postseason game Cam Newton 2015 Colin Kaepernick 2012 Jay Cutler 2010 Otto Graham 1954/1955 via @eliassports— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 25, 2016
But, the story was the defense, which forced seven turnovers, six of which were committed by Carson Palmer, including a pick-six in the fourth quarter.
7 turnovers by Cardinals are the most by any team in any playoff game since the Packers had 8 in the 2001 NFC Divisional Playoff at Rams— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 25, 2016
You could make the case for three or four different teams having been the AFC's best, but there's no question Carolina has been the NFC's and NFL's best to this point. That's why they'll undoubtedly be favored in the big game, which will feature two of, if not the league's best defenses.
Here is a quick glance at the game info for Super Bowl 50:
Game: Denver Broncos vs Carolina Panthers
Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
When: Sunday, Feb. 7
Game Time: 6:30 p.m.
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream: CBS Sports
Mobile: CBS Sports App
Odds: SB Nation Odds Page
Referee: Clete Blakeman
Panthers SB Nation Blog: Cat Scratch Fever
Broncos SB Nation Blog: Mile High Report