By Jack O’Dwyer
It looks like the misfortune spearheaded by “Deflategate” isn’t over yet for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. You could clearly see the disappointment on their faces as the team slunk back to their locker room after a depressing defeat against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Jan. 24.
The final score of the game was 20-18 led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who has now won three consecutive American Football Conference (AFC) Championship games against Brady.
Sunday’s game started out with New England fans in high spirits. How could Manning—a player who many viewed as a star who has hung around past his prime—possibly lead the Broncos to victory against the Patriots?
It was clear they were the team to beat, but by the end of the first quarter hopes were already shaken. Denver was leading 7-6 as Stephen Gostowski missed out on scoring that extra point for his team.
The second quarter didn’t provide much relief, either. Manning, along with teammate Owen Daniels, who joined the Broncos last year, scored a 12-yard touchdown to bring the score up 14-6.
Gostowski managed to complete a field goal with just seven minutes left, but the Broncos matched their efforts with ease to set the score at 17-9 at halftime.
Defense shone for both teams at the start of the second half, with New England blocking Denver and nailing another field goal to cut into their lead toward the end of the third quarter. Things were tense. The Patriots’ final hopes for making it to the Super Bowl were all pinned on how they played the final part of this game.
The Broncos opened the fourth quarter by stretching their lead to 20-12 and held it until the last two remaining minutes of the game. A diving catch by Rob Gronkowski kept the Patriots from slipping any further behind, and it fell to him again with a mere 17 seconds left.
Brady managed to shorten Denver’s lead to just two points with a last-minute touchdown, but despite his best attempts to score again, his pass was tipped and intercepted.
Thus ended the Patriots’ season so close to playing in the Super Bowl, and cemented the Broncos’ place in the game this February.
The Denver Broncos will be joined by the Carolina Panthers, who won their match against the Arizona Cardinals with a final score of 49-15.
Poor Brady! It appears that he won’t be getting a chance at that 5th-on-50th victory after all.