AFC Championship: Patriots at Broncos live blog

Zuri Berry, Steve Silva and Chad Finn have updates from Denver as the Patriots face the Broncos in the AFC Championships. Discuss the game with Obnoxious Boston Fan in the right-hand panel.

By Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff
The Patriots fell one game short of the Super Bowl for the second straight season, as the team can only watch as the Broncos celebrate their trip to New York/New Jersey, where they will meet the winner of the 49ers-Seahawks game. (Photo credit Julie Jacobson/AP)
by Jeff Pini

DENVER — The last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl was nine years ago.

After losing to the Denver Broncos 26-16 Sunday in the AFC Championship, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will have to wait one more year to chase that elusive fourth title.

Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns and Broncos kicker Matt Prater converted on four field goal attempts to lead Denver to its first Super Bowl berth since 1998.

The Broncos will face the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers, in Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey on Feb. 2.

In the Belichick and Brady era, the Patriots fell to 3-3 on the road in the postseason and have lost two straight AFC Championships. It was the 15th meeting of the league’s two top quarterbacks, Manning and Brady, with Brady falling to 10-5. Brady had beaten a Manning-led team in three straight matchups.

Belichick fell to 6-2 against Denver head coach John Fox.

Manning threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 7:52 left in the third quarter and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme in the second quarter as the Broncos jumped all over the Patriots.

Prater's four field goals, including a 54-yarder, helped the Broncos go up by as much as 20 points on the Patriots before Brady orchestrated a pair of 80-yard touchdown drives. He threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman and ran in a 5-yard touchdown on his own in the fourth quarter.

Stephen Gostkowski made a 47-yard field goal with 2:54 left in the first half to get the Patriots on the scoreboard. But the Patriots didn't get into the end zone until there was 9:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Pictures: Patriots-Broncos game
  • Going on 96.3FM ME, The Big Jab with @russthompson19 to preview #Patriots vs. #Broncos AFC championship right now. bit.ly/TuH4T7
  • ICYMI: Tom Brady must continue dominance vs. Jack Del Rio for #Patriots to beat #Broncos . bit.ly/KqqTJk via @BR_NFL
  • Parking across the street from Mile High is going for a cool $80
  • Sports Authority Field at Mile High...Team Globe filing in for #Patriots -#Broncos http://pbs.twimg.com/media/BeW2aa8CcAAveVM.jpg

  • ICYMI: Tom Brady as underdog gives old school feel to new school rivalry with Peyton Manning. bit.ly/1a2PznT via @BR_NFL
  • #Patriots rookie Jamie Collins' Southern Miss team was 0-12 his sr yr. as @GlobeWhitmer notes, things have changed: bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/01…
  • I'm just chillin', so if anyone wants to chat about the game, I'll take some questions.
  • Denver -4. RT @Crazychimpman : @ErikFrenz @BR_NFL Aren’t the pats like 5+ favorites?
  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 5:19:17 PM

    The view from the press box at Sports Authority Field in Denver.

  • Every snap if possible. Not sure. RT @ryan_mcfly : how much does Dennard play? And do the patriots play sides with their DBs?
  • A few scattered Broncos on the field getting loose. Wearing shorts.
  • Maybe…RT @CStrable : @ErikFrenz Will the team that scores the most points win?
  • #NFL announces that 98 underclassmen have declared for this year's NFL Draft. Previous records were 73 last year, 65 in 2012
  • Good morning from a bright and sunny Sports Authority Field at Mile High ow.ly/i/4kH0Z
  • Colorado native (and former Buffalo) Nate Solder one of the first Patriots on the field.
  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 5:29:51 PM
    Patriots punter Ryan Allen is on the field warming up. Listed as questionable for today's game with a shoulder injury. Expected to play.
  • Ryan Allen, in shorts and t-shirt, getting a feel for the field turf. Hasn't kicked yet.
  • Sun might seriously be an issue -- it will be really bright for team facing south, especially late in the game.
  • For 28 teams, today is Senior Bowl arrival day in Mobile, Ala. Sad to miss my annual trip. The oyster economy may not recover
  • #Patriots punter Ryan Allen is on the field in warmups and not wearing anything on his shoulder. Crisis averted
  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 5:52:14 PM
    Projected starting lineups:
    Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injury reports.

    Patriots offense: WR Kenbrell Thompkins, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Marcus Cannon, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, WR Julian Edelman, QB Tom Brady, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Danny Amendola.

    Patriots defense: LE Rob Ninkovich, DT Sealver Siliga, DT Chris Jones, DE Chandler Jones, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Dane Fletcher, LB Jamie Collins, CB Aqib Talib, CB Alfonzo Dennard, S Devin McCourty, S Steve Gregory.

    Broncos offense: WR Demaryius Thomas, LT Chris Clark, LG Zane Beadles, C Manny Ramirez, RG Louis Vasquez, RT Orlando Franklin, TE Julius Thomas, WR Eric Decker, WR Wes Welker, QB Peyton Manning, RB Knowshon Moreno.

    Broncos defense: LDE Malik Jackson, DT Sylvester Williams, NT Terrance Knighton, RDE Shaun Phillips, SLB Nate Irving, MLB Wesley Woodyard, WLB Danny Trevathan, LCB Champ Bailey, RCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, SS Duke Ihenacho, FS Mike Adams.
  • There are 4 outcomes today, and Im good with 3 of them. DEN-SF was my preseason pick. NE-SF is what I pick today. NE-SEA is favorite matchup
  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 5:54:10 PM
    Here’s what we’ll be watching:

    1. Jamie Collins against Julius Thomas — The Patriots rookie linebacker will be tested against one of the NFL’s top tight ends in Julius Thomas. Thomas did not play in the first bout between the Patriots and Broncos. But after he caught 65 passes for 778 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 regular season games, he is a well-known threat. With Thomas at 6-5 and 250 pounds, Collins (6-3, 250) may be the only Patriots player with the size to cover and compete with him.

    2. Aqib Talib vs. Demaryius Thomas — Demaryius Thomas caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown last time around against the Patriots. He got the best of Aqib Talib in that matchup, catching three of those passes with Talib in coverage, including the touchdown. But he made sure to make things difficult for Thomas in overtime, denying him a pass on 3rd and 14. How Talib handles one of the league’s top boundary receivers in Round 2 will have huge implications on the game.

    3. Containment of Shaun Phillips — Denver’s outside linebacker has replaced Von Miller as the team’s top pass rushing specialist. He tallied two sacks against his former team, the San Diego Chargers, in the AFC Divisional round and 10 sacks this season. Containing him should be a point of emphasis for the Patriots’ offensive line.

    4. Peyton Manning’s foibles — The league’s top quarterback has had well-known meltdowns in the postseason. His 10-11 record in the playoffs is littered with games in which he has thrown an untimely interception, was unable to convert on a key play, or failed in the red zone when his team needed a touchdown most. For as much as this game is about how the Patriots can somehow limit the league’s top offense, led by the league’s top quarterback, it’s just as much about whether Manning can maintain his high level of play at a time when the best is expected of him.

    5. Bill Belichick’s gamesmanship — Whether the goal is to shut down the Broncos’ passing attack or somehow rein in their running game, which was prolific in Week 12, the Patriots coach’s game plan has to somehow confuse and confound Broncos coach John Fox and Manning enough to render the best offense an average counterweight. In the Patriots and Broncos’ first meeting, there was an open-door sign for the Broncos to run on every down, with the Patriots benefiting greatly from the wind and Manning taking a backseat to Knowshon Moreno (224 yards). By the time the Broncos really started attacking the Patriots through the air, New England had already scored 28 straight points. That sort of gamesmanship, while successful against the Broncos with Jack Del Rio at the helm, likely won’t work twice. But that doesn’t mean Belichick won’t have something else up his sleeve.

    6. Wes Welker’s redemption? — Former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker did not have a good showing when he was back in New England. Back deep to return a punt in overtime, he hesitated to step up and make a fair catch that ended up bouncing off teammate Tony Carter and into the hands of Patriots defensive back Nate Ebner. That was the play that put the Patriots in field goal position for Stephen Gostkowski, who nailed the 31-yard game-winner. This time around, he’ll likely be kept to his wide receiving duties, a job in which he was only marginally effective last time around (four catches on eight targets for 31 yards). Will he have a redemptive performance? He surely must be thinking it.

    7. Attacking cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Quentin Jammer — Because of an injury to starting cornerback Chris Harris, the Broncos are going to have to rely on defensive backs Champ Bailey, an early season starter turned slot corner, and Quentin Jammer, the team’s fourth defensive back. These veterans with 15 and 12 years of experience are not what they used to be, especially Jammer, who was abused by the Chargers last week. Patriots receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will have their opportunities to attack guys like Jammer throughout the game. They have to take advantage.

    8. Marquice Cole’s impact — Also because of the injury to Harris, the Broncos signed former Patriots defensive back Marquice Cole to fill the depth gap. Cole was a core special teams contributor for the Patriots this season and is a capable defensive back in a pinch. Whether or not he contributes, especially with only a week of practice, is not guaranteed. But all indications say that he will. What impact he may have is something else entirely.

    9. Julian Edelman’s speed — As far as slights go, Edelman has a legitimate claim to the week’s top insult. Broncos safety Mike Adams said he was a “one speed” kind of guy. That’s more than enough incentive for Edelman, who caught 105 passes in the regular season, to show off his one speed. Maybe on his way to the end zone. Who knows?

    10. Who’s available? — Wide receivers Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (concussion) are both questionable. Punter Ryan Allen (shoulder) is also questionable. The Patriots could use another receiver to add a layer to their passing attack, especially one of Dobson’s size and ability. Allen is obviously pivotal to the Patriots’ special teams unit as punter and holder. Having at least Allen available could be a difference-maker if the Patriots were to have to deal with any long field goals or backed-up punts.
  • Naturally RT @WillBrinson : @BenVolin So DEN-SEA is going to be the Super Bowl?
  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 5:56:59 PM
    Expect inactives at 1:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30 a.m. Mountain.
  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 5:58:42 PM
    Ryan Allen working on his holding. Still haven't seen him take an actual punt. Been going through the motions.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com 1/19/2014 6:01:01 PM

    Feels like Florida on the field. Zero wind

  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 6:03:14 PM
    In my AFC, NFC championship picks, here’s what I said about the Patriots-Broncos:


    Patriots (+4) at the Broncos (-4) —After the Patriots stormed back to beat the Broncos 34-31 in overtime in Week 12, helped in part by conservative play-calling in 22-degree weather and Rob Gronkowski (7 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown), they’re facing a different climate and mindset in Denver going into Sunday’s game. Peyton Manning, who is 4-10 against Tom Brady, aggressively attacked the San Diego Chargers last week, throwing the ball down the stretch despite having the lead. That’s a huge change from what the Patriots previously saw and could affect the dynamics of the game should the Broncos procure another lead. But Denver has been notorious for allowing opponents an opportunity to steal the game away, much like they did for the Chargers, who had the Broncos stuck at 3rd and 17. The Patriots can certainly steal a win against the AFC’s No. 1 seed if Brady and the passing game gets going against a diminished Broncos secondary. The injury to Denver cornerback Chris Harris certainly opens things up. I expect it to go down to the final possession. Maybe even a field goal.
    My pick: Patriots
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com 1/19/2014 6:04:18 PM

    Vince Wilfork in the house

  • Steve Silva, Boston.com 1/19/2014 6:09:16 PM

    Shane Veteran greets his family

  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 6:10:43 PM
    Patriots skill position players have taken the field for warmups.
  • former #Patriots C Dan Koppen, on IR with #Broncos , on field catching up with former teammates
  • Among the early stretchers: Vereen, McCourty, Slater.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com 1/19/2014 6:13:51 PM

    Patriots players say "Omaha" during stretch

  • Chad Finn, Boston.com 1/19/2014 6:17:36 PM
    Weather in Denver couldn't be more perfect. [Suspenseful music]: But is it TOO perfect for Peyton?
  • Zuri Berry 1/19/2014 6:18:17 PM
    Aaron Dobson on the field catching passes from Ryan Mallett.
  • New Bronco - and former Patriot - Marquice Cole chatting on the field with Vince Wilfork. Here's hoping 'Quice is active today.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com 1/19/2014 6:21:09 PM

    Patriots fans rrolling in

  • Now Cole is catching up with a bunch of Patriots: Harmon, McCourty, Chandler Jones, Arrington.
  • View from the top row in section 500 ow.ly/i/4kI8x
  • #Patriots defensive backs chatting with Marquice Cole...NE DBs have been tight bunch
  • Aaron Dobson is on the field warming up as well...inactives should be coming within 5min or so
  • Cole's pregame field time has been a social visit. That leads me to guess he'll be inactive for the Broncos. Just a guess.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com 1/19/2014 6:32:42 PM

    Chandler Jones ready

  • Kenbrell Thompkins the most notable of the 7 inactives for #Patriots . Aaron Dobson is back in the lineup after missing last week
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