Manning vs. Brady XIII
The 2015 AFC Championship Game
Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots - January 24th, 2016
Sports Authority Field at Mile High - Denver, Colorado
The Denver Broncos, the team I have rooted for since as longs I can remember, were condemned to lose to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game. Knowing very well it may a long wait for future conference championships and home-field advantages, I could not forgo an opportunity to witness the possibility of the Broncos pulling it off and reaching Super Bowl 50.
Bought round-trip tickets Saturday night and landed in Colorado the next morning. After a rundown about the area with "Big" Mike on my Uber drive to the stadium about rocky mountain oysters and prairie dogs, we hit the traffic jam and left-right fans were pouring into Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
On the outskirts of the stadium, I stood among busts of Broncos hall-of-game: Shannon Sharpe. Terrell Davis. Rod Smith. John Elway. Staples of the pair of Super Bowl wins in the late-90s. Walking out of the tunnel and into the bowl - it hit me. I was amongst thousands with there show up and cheer on Broncos to the Super Bowl.
The home team struck first with a touchdown to Owen Daniels. Every defensive possession, fans were on their feet - shouted to the top of their lungs; cheering “IN-COM-PLETE!” as Brady’s passes didn’t connect. Von Miller and the No Fly Zone, played to show the world they were the Orange Crush 2.0 but unraveling the Pats offense. These were the Brady-Belichick Patriots and Denver could not pull ahead to put the game away.
Halftime. 17-9 and the Broncos were one half away from reaching America's game. The American Authors were halftime entertainment performing “Pride” and “Best Day of My Life”.
The grind continued. 4th quarter came and the Broncos were still desperately trying to chew the clock. Up 8 points with less than a minute to go - Football Gods, please, not today. After converting continuous 3rd-and-long possessions, Gronk caught a touchdown in the endzone from Tom Brady on a 4th and goal with :12 to go to pull the Pats only two-points away from overtime. Gronk failed to catch a lob to the back of the endzone by Brady on the two-point conversion. The crowed roared relief. 18-20, Broncos. Shiloh Keo recovered the onside kick.
The Broncos punched a ticket to Super Bowl 50!
Orange, blue, and white confetti filled the sky in the place called mile-high. (the stadium is 5280 feet above sea level). The teams congratulated each other as the Pats slowly left the field. The players and staff crowded the 25-yard line as the trophy ceremony took place. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen stepped down from CEO duties this year because he was underoing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. His wife, Annabel, accepted the Lamar Hunt trophy and shouts “Let’s get it done for Pat and Go Broncos!”
I was surrounded by Broncos fans who I’ve rode this roller coaster all season with, but who I finally got to meet high-fiving countless fans. As night fell, the stadium emptied. Everyone took their cars, shuttles, and flights home. The season was not over for this franchise and their fans. Broncos Country were on their way to Santa Clara, California for their chance to take home the Lombardi trophy back to Denver.