DENVER - With a berth to Super Bowl XLVIII on the line, the AFC Championship between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots comes down to two old rivals.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have faced each other 14 times with Brady holding onto a 10-4 edge. Brady’s Patriots climbed from a 24-point deficit to beat the Broncos 34-31 earlier this season.
The Broncos haven’t beaten the Patriots since 2009 when current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the Broncos head coach. The last time Manning and Brady met in the AFC Championship Game, Manning rallied past the Patriots 38-34 in 2007.
Here are some of the key matchups to watch for as the Broncos play in their ninth conference championship game.
Key matchups to watch
Patriots QB Tom Brady vs Broncos QB Peyton Manning
In the first matchup, Brady torched the Broncos defense for 344 yards and three touchdown passes. Manning was held to a season-low 150 passing yards.
Patriots DB Aqib Talib vs Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas
Peyton Manning’s favorite target in Demaryius Thomas was held to a season-low 41 receiving yards in the first meeting. Thomas hopes he can reduplicate his performance last year against the Patriots when he caught nine passes for 180 receiving yards.
Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount vs Broncos Terrance Knighton
The Patriots running game was so dominant last week that they scored 43 points without Brady throwing a touchdown pass. LaGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries in the game. The Broncos held San Diego to 65 yards rushing last week.
Patriots OL Nate Solder vs Broncos LB Shaun Phillips
With Von Miller out for the season with a knee injury, Shaun Phillips will have to pick up the slack. Phillips had two sacks in the playoff win against the San Diego Chargers last week.
Patriots WR Julian Edelman vs Broncos DB Champ Bailey
It is possible that Champ Bailey could return to his regular outside corner position with the loss of Chris Harris to a torn ACL. If Bailey guards the slot position, then he would be guarding Patriots receiver Julian Edleman. Edleman caught nine passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the first game against the Broncos this season.
Broncos: OUT – Chris Harris (Knee), Von Miller (Knee), Kevin Vickerson (Hip)
Patriots: QUESTIONABLE – Ryan Allen (shoulder), Aaron Dobson (foot), Kenbrell Thompkins (Hip/Concussion)
The Broncos hold a 2-0 record against the Patriots in the postseason, last winning 27-13 in 2005. The Broncos are 6-2 all-time in conference championship games including a 4-1 mark at home.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are 1-1 against each other in the AFC Championship Game. Brady won 24-14 in 2004 and Manning won 38-34 in 2007.