Friday, January 17, 2014

AFC Championship Preview

Well, for most of the country who doesn't have a vested rooting interest in an AFC team, this is the game they all wanted. Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, round four: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos. The last time these two quarterbacks met in an AFC Championship Game, it resulted in what I wrote about in 2007 as "The Best Football Game of All Time." We should probably expect the same this time around.

When these two teams met earlier this year in New England, Denver jumped out to a big lead at halftime and then squandered it in the second half. Like I wrote in 2007, New England is Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger all rolled up into one unstoppable killing machine. And as much as it pains me to write this, I think that's what we can expect to see unfold in Denver this Sunday afternoon. Let me break it down quarter by quarter...

First Quarter: Both teams punt on their first possession, but New England gets the first score toward the end of the quarter after a long drive. NE 7, DEN 0.

Second Quarter: Peyton gets rolling and puts up two touchdowns. Brady follows with a quick drive, throwing the ball down field at will through the porous Denver secondary. Peyton drives the Broncos down field in a two-minute drill that results in a half-ending field goal. DEN 17, NE 14.

Third Quarter: Denver gets the ball first and kicks another field goal. Both defenses tighten up, and each team only manages one TD in this quarter. DEN 27, NE 21.

Fourth Quarter: Brady starts to light it up, once again taking advantage of the fact that Denver's defensive backs are about as effective against the pass as the Titanic was against icebergs. New England scores two touchdowns, while all Denver can muster throughout most of the fourth quarter is another field goal. With less than four minutes to play in the game, New England kicks off to Denver with the score NE 35, DEN 30.

Now is the time where Peyton does what he's done so many times before. With pinpoint accuracy and the calm that comes from the fact that he is a cold-blooded assassin, Manning drives the Broncos across the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown, putting Denver up 37-35. There's only one problem: there are 55 second left to play in the game, and New England still has two time outs.

Brady takes the ball on his own 20 yard line. The Denver pass rush doesn't get within a mile—high, low, or any direction—of Brady at any point. Denver's pass defense brings to mind other notable defensive stalwarts like the French infantry in WW2 or Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, and four plays later, with four seconds remaining, Stephen Gostkowski kicks a 38-yard field goal to give the Patriots the AFC Championship with a final score of 38-37.

At this point, I once again vow never to watch another NFL game for as long as I live. My wife will roll her eyes in long-suffering derision.

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