The culmination of the greatness that was the 2013 Denver Broncos came not in the Super Bowl, but two weeks prior in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.
Earlier in the season in Week 12, the Broncos played in New England and were up 24-0 at halftime. Ultimately Tom Brady drove back to take the lead 31-24 in the fourth quarter before Peyton Manning would need to get a drive of his own to tie it up for overtime. A special teams gaffe would give the Patriots the win.
In this game, Denver was in control from start to almost the finish.
The offense had six scoring drives, but came away with field goals in four of them. However, the Broncos defense kept Brady from getting any kind of momentum. Slowly but surely, Denver built up a lead.
The first touchdown came on a 15-play, 94-yard drive in the second quarter that culminated on this Manning 1-yard pass to Jacob Tamme to put Denver up 10-0.
Going into halftime up 13-3 wasn’t enough against a team like the Patriots, so Manning and the Broncos offense came out in the third quarter to slam the door shut with another long 14-play, 90 yard drive that was capped with this three yard touchdown toss to Demaryius Thomas.
Denver would extend their lead to 23-3 early in the fourth quarter when Brady and the Patriots finally found life. They put together back-to-back touchdown drives, but Denver would add another field goal in between to keep a two score 26-16 lead with just over three minutes to go in the game.
Terrance Knighton closed the door on the comeback with this sack.
From there, Manning and the Broncos churned out the clock with an 8-play, 38 yard drive that brought Denver all the way to the Patriots 12 yard line with a minute to go. With no timeouts, Manning took the knee and sent the Broncos back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years.
That Super Bowl didn’t work out, but the stage was certainly set for an even greater act just two short years later.