Doug Pensinger- Getty Images
NFL- After trailing 24-0 at the half of their first meeting, trailing by 10 points against Denver at Mile high during halftime if the AFC Championship game might not have seemed so daunting at the half for New England- at least on paper.
However, outside of a 47 yard Gostkowski FG with just under 3 minutes to go in the half the Broncos managed to shut out New England. Even more worrying for the Patriots was the loss of CB Aqib Talib early in the game, which seemed to open up Peyton Manning's air attack even more.
Denver started the scoring late in the first quarter with a 27 yard Prater FG to make it 3-0. The Broncos then capped a 7-minute, 93 yard drive in the 2nd quarter with a rushing TD from TE Jacob Tamme to take a 10-0 lead with just under 8 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter. Inside of the two minute warning, the Patriots defense managed to keep to Broncos out of the end zone, but Denver got another 3 points thanks to a 35 yard Prater FG to make it 13-3 at the half.
After halftime, Denver added to their lead with another time-consuming drive that shaved more than 7 minutes off the clock and took the Broncos 80 yards. The drive was capped with a 3 yard completion from Manning to Demaryius Thomas for another Broncos TD to make it a 20-3 lead.
In fact, New England wouldn't manage to find the end zone until the 4th quarter and only after the Broncos had managed to tack another 3 points on to make it a 23-3 game. With just under 9 and a half minutes to go in regulation, Brady found Julian Edelman for a 7 yard TD reception and make it a 23-10 game.
On their next drive, the Broncos would get as far as the New England 36 and seemingly put the game out of reach thanks to a 54 yard Prater FG, giving Denver a 26-10 lead with 7 minutes to go.
The Patriots would get the ball back on their own 20 and Brady would cap the drive by making a 5 yard TD run himself but the subsequent two point conversion attempt failed, leaving it a 10 point game with just over 3 minutes left. All Denver really needed to do is get a few first downs and run out the clock- and that's exactly what happened as the Patriots burned their remaining timeouts to try and preserve the clock.
The win propels the Broncos to their first Super Bowl since the 1998 season (and Peyton Manning's first since 2006). Manning went 32-43 and threw for 400 yards on the day while Brady went 24-38 with 277 yards and one passing and one rushing TD. Although the Pats mostly kept Knowshown Moreno in check, but that made little difference as Manning's air attack seemed to open up even more after Talib's early departure.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP- The Broncos would have to wait a little while to find out who they'd be playing at the Meadowlands in Super Bowl XLVIII. As it turned out, the NFC title game between Western division rivals Seattle and San Francisco would be much more competitive than the earlier AFC Championship game.
With Seattle taking a 20-17 lead on a TD pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse earlt in the 4th, there was still plenty of time for the 49ers to come back- even when the Seahawks added to their lead with a 47 yard FG to make it a 23-17 game with just under four minutes to go.
The game-deciding drive got underway when the 49ers started out from their own 22 with just over 3 and a half minutes remaining. After moving the ball downfield and getting inside the Seattle Red Zone, Seahawks All Pro cornerback Richard Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick's pass attempt to teammate Malcom Smith to clinch the game with 22 seconds left.
Of course, the actual game seemed to pale in comparison to Sherman's postgame interview with FOX Sports' Erin Andrews where he ripped Michael Crabtree as a 'sorry' receiver [it apparently was one of the few times Kaepernick attempted to throw to a receiver covered by Crabtree that day- NANESB!].
The win sets up a Big Game matchup between teams from two cities that- as others have pointed out- have recently legalized marijuana, lending new significance to the phrase Super Bowl.
Kickoff for Superbowl XLVIII is scheduled for Sunday, Feb 2nd at 6:30 PM ET from the Meadowlands in E. Rutherford, NJ and the game will be televised on FOX.
NHL- It's been a busy week for the Boston Bruins- a week in which good things come in sixes, apparently.
Over the weekend, they travelled to Philly where they beat the Flyers by a 6-1 final before heading to Uniondale, NY on Monday night and beat the Islanders by a 6-3 final. Tuesday night marked the Bruins return to the Garden as well as a homecoming of sorts for former Bruin and Catamount and 2011 Vezina and Conn Smythe trophy winner Tim Thomas, who resumed his NHL career earlier this year with the Florida Panthers.
The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first thanks for goals by Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara before doubling their lead in the second with another Lucic tally and a power play goal by Reilly Smith to make it 4-0. The Panthers were able to get on the board in the closing seconds of the 2nd period thanks to a Bard Boyes tally. Four minutes into the 3rd period, the Panthers were able to cut the Boston lead in half thanks to a Dmitri Kulikov goal, making it a 4-2 game. However, that would be as close as the Panthers would get as Shawn Thornton and David Krejci would score for Boston to put the B's up 6-2.
Things got kind of testy towards the end of the game when Tim Thomas delivered a stick to defenseman Carl Soderberg's head in the closing seconds of the game. Thomas was given a high-sticking minor with only a few seconds to go when the game was already decided and Boston goes on the cruise to a 6-2 win over Florida.
This sets up an Original 6 matchup for Thursday night with the Bruins hosting the Montreal Canadiens at the Garden. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 PM ET and the game will be televised on NESN and the NHL Network.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- For the 2013-2014 season, the New Year's Day Winter Classic didn't end with the Red Wings vs Maple Leafs game from the Big House in Michigan.
On Saturday night, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings faced off in Dodgers Stadium for the first-ever warm weather outdoor regular season NHL game. The host LA Kings ultimately fell to their Orange County rivals by a 3-0 final.
But the outdoor games didn't end in the city of Angels. The very next day on the other side of the country, the New York Rangers began what would be the first of two games [interestingly one 'home' and one 'away'- NANESB!] at Yankee stadium. On Sunday afternoon, the Blueshirts were trailing the Devils 3-1 in the first period when they managed to score six unanswered goals on Martin Brodeur. On Wednesday night, the Rangers took on the Islanders as the 'away' team and broke a 1-1 deadlock in the 3rd with a go-ahead goal from Dan Carcillo in the 3rd to help the Rangers win and sweep the series at Yankee stadium.
There remains two more outdoor for the NHL this season- a Feb 1st matchup at Chicago's Soldier Field that pits the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins and a March 2nd all-Canada contest between the Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators at the BC Palace Stadium in Vancouver, BC.
WINTER OLYMPICS- Downhill Skier Lindsey Vonn announced that she will not be competing in the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, saying that an earlier right knee injury she suffered is taking longer than she anticipated to heal. Instead, the 2010 Gold Medalist will travel to Sochi as a correspondent for NBC and a spokesman said earlier this month that she is expected to undergo surgery.
Vonn took gold Gold in the downhill event at the 2010 Winter games in Vancouver as well as a Bronze in the Super G event. Lindsey also has gold medals in Super G and downhill from the 2009 Alpine World Skiing Championships in Val d'Isère, France.