In a tense, suffocating contest on Sunday, the Denver Broncos defeated the New England Patriots 20-18 to win the AFC Championship and claim a ticket to Super Bowl 50. Before kickoff, the game was billed as the latest legacy tussle between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, two very old, very successful quarterbacks who have met in the conference championship four times and led their teams to appearances in six of the past 10 Super Bowls. But in their 17th meeting, the duo had little time to add new sets of heroics to their rivalry; most of their energies were invested, instead, in trying to keep upright.
That’s especially true of Brady, whose toddler-like helplessness in the face of Denver’s defense was the story of the game. Granted, that defense is the best in the league, but the surprise was just how swarming, ominous, and omnipresent the Broncos’ pass rush was, with players like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware forcing Brady into all sorts of awkward dances, lunges, and tumbles in the backfield. There are quite a few fancy stats that quantify just how much pressure Brady was under, but this about sums it up: