Manning headed to Super Bowl after outslugging Brady

Arnie Stapleton
Associated Press
The Broncos' Peyton Manning fires downfield against the Patriots on Sunday.

Denver — Peyton Manning is glad he doesn't have to face Denver's dizzying defense. Tom Brady wasn't so lucky.

The Broncos bashed Brady throughout a 20-18 dethroning of the New England Patriots in the AFC championship Sunday that sent Denver to a record-tying eighth Super Bowl.

Von Miller's monster performance led the way for a dominant defense that hit Brady 23 times and forced him into 29 incompletions, two fourth-down flops, and a costly interception on a failed 2-point try that would have tied it with 12 seconds left.

"Von played phenomenal today," safety T.J. Ward said. "I have never seen a performance like that from one player."

Miller had 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, a pass breakup and a takeaway that turned into a touchdown.

"I tell you, I can do it all," Miller said with a wry smile. "I'm just playing."

But he wasn't kidding.

Denver's defense is no joke.

"Defense wins championships," Chris Harris Jr. said, repeating the mantra in case anybody still doubts Denver.

DeMarcus Ware added seven hits on Brady, including a sandwich sack with Miller, and Derek Wolfe set the early tone with a huge, jaw-rattling hit, a batted down pass and a sack.

"He was rattled," said Aqib Talib, whose deflected pass on Brady's 2-point try settled into Brady Roby's hands. "I don't think I've ever seen anybody put that much pressure on Tom — ever. So, I think we did a hell of a job getting that pressure on him. That's why we're going to the 'ship."

Along with Manning, who was hit just four times and threw two TD passes to tight end Owen Daniels.

Manning is seeking his second ring and his third for his boss, John Elway.

"Me, personally, I think he still has it, although the critics say he doesn't have it," receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. "You want to talk about a guy that started the season off 7-0 and is now he is going to the Super Bowl. At age 39 or 40 or 70 or how ever old he is, no matter what, he gets the job done."

Two months shy of 40, he's also trying to supplant Elway as the oldest QB ever to win a Lombardi Trophy.

Standing in their way is Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (17-1), who throttled the, Arizona Cardinals 49-15 to reach their first Super Bowl.

"I've enjoyed playing on the same team as that defense," Manning said of his teammates. "I'm glad I haven't had to face them this season, I'll say that. They've been challenging to go against in practice."

Brady praised not only Denver's front seven, but its star-studded secondary.

"It was just tough for us to ever get in a rhythm," said Brady, who fell to 11-6 in his storied rivalry with Manning, including 1-3 in conference championships.