If Sunday’s AFC Championship really was a "legacy game," Tom Brady may not like what his becomes.
The Patriots were outmatched in Denver Sunday, falling to Peyton Manning and the Broncos, 26-16.
The Pats' never-say-die attitude this season and ability to overcome almost any injury finally came to an end. Maybe it was Aqib Talib’s knee injury that sidelined him for the majority of the game – the second straight AFC Championship he’s been hurt in. Or perhaps it was the Patriots’ lack of offensive weapons that once and for all proved to be too much for Brady (24-38, 277 yards, one touchdown) to make up.
It could have been the fact that the Patriots couldn’t establish any semblance of a running game (64 total yards). But most of all, it’s this: The Broncos are just a more talented team, and on that Sunday, talent won out. Peyton comes up big Peyton Manning played like the MVP he is on Sunday, finishing the game with 400 passing yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Of course, it helped that he has some of the best receivers in the game on his team. Demaryius Thomas finished with seven receptions, 134 yards, and a touchdown, while tight end Julius Thomas caught eight passes for 85 yards. Manning now gets a chance to win his second Super Bowl and put his name up there with quarterbacks like Brady and Joe Montana, who are known as two of the best postseason quarterbacks in NFL history.
One final Pats injury It’s fitting for this Patriots team that an injury – yes, another injury – played a vital role in the outcome of this game. Dogged by injuries all season, the Pats lost their best cornerback early in the second quarter, Aqib Talib. Talib collided with Wes Welker in what looked like an illegal pick play that went uncalled. He left the game with a knee injury, and the Pats secondary was never the same. Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington both missed chances at interceptions at different points in the game. Denver’s wide receivers were just too big, too fast, and too good for New England to keep up.
What’s next for New England? The Patriots have plenty questions to address heading into the offseason. A few key players will hit free agency in Talib and Julian Edelman. Talib’s injury history is a bit troubling, and the Patriots will think long and hard before offering him a deal for too many years or too much money. Edelman made under $1 million this season, and will surely command a multi-year deal from some team. Will the Patriots be that team, or will they look to finally acquire an established outside threat for Brady before it becomes too late?