NFL Playoffs Recap: Denver and Seattle Advance to Super Bowl XLVIII
Peyton Manning is back in the Super Bowl along with the Denver Broncos, while the Seattle Seahawks have reached the NFL championship for the first time since 2006.
Both advanced Sunday in the NFL playoffs, with host Denver defeating New England 26-16 and host Seattle defeating San Francisco 23-17. Denver and Seattle are both 15-3.
Super Bowl XLVIII is Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
AFC Championship: Broncos 26, Patriots 16
Manning passed for 400 yards and two touchdowns, and the Broncos dominated the New England Patriots 26-16 to win the AFC championship in Denver on Sunday.
Denver stormed to a 13-3 halftime lead, and its 13-play, 80-yard drive at the start of the second half consumed more than seven minutes and ended with a 3-yard scoring pass from Manning to Demaryius Thomas that gave the Broncos a 20-3 advantage.
New England's first touchdown of the game, a 7-yard pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman, came with 9:26 to play and fell in between Matt Prater's third and fourth field goals of the day for Denver. Brady's 5-yard TD run with 3:07 left in the game brought the Patriots to within 10 points, but they could not stop the Broncos and continue the rally.
Thomas caught seven passes for 134 yards and a score against a soft New England defense. Denver tight end Julius Thomas had eight catches for 85 yards.
Brady finished 24-of-38 for 277 yards and a touchdown to Edelman, who finished with 10 receptions for 89 yards. New England's offense managed just 64 net yards rushing against the Broncos.
The Broncos won Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998 behind quarterback John Elway, who is now Denver's executive vice president of football operations. It was Denver's first AFC Championship appearance since 2005.
Manning was the MVP of Super Bowl XLI in 2006, leading the Indianapolis Colts to a 29–17 victory over the Chicago Bears. In Super Bowl XLIV against New Orleans in 2009, the Colts lost 24-17 to the Saints.
NFC Championship: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown on fourth down and the Seahawks' defense forced three fourth-quarter turnovers to beat the 49ers and earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch added 106 yards rushing with a 40-yard touchdown run early in the second half that erased a 10-3 halftime deficit.
With Seattle trailing 17-13 in the fourth quarter, Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse to put the Seahawks ahead to stay.
Seattle's Steven Hauschka kicked a 47-yard field goal with 3:43 left, and Malcolm Smith intercepted San Francisco quarterback's Colin Kaepernick pass into the end zone with 22 seconds left.
Wilson was 16-of-25 passing for 215 yards, hitting Doug Baldwin six times for 106 yards.
Kaepernick ran for 130 yards on 11 carries, but lost a fumble for the defending NFC champion 49ers. He was 14-of-24 for 153 yards passing with two interceptions.
It's the first trip to the big game for the Seahawks since they lost to Pittsburgh in the 2006 Super Bowl.
It meant the end of the season for Joe Staley, a Pro Bowl left tackle from Rockford High and Central Michigan University, and Dan Skuta, a backup linebacker and special teams player from Grand Valley State. The 49ers lost last year in the Super Bowl to Baltimore 34-31.