Denver Broncos 27 — New England Patriots 13
When a basketball player commits a foul, they raise their hand in admittance of fault.
Well, that’s what I’m doing. I picked the Patriots to win tonight, but the overlooked, written-off Denver Broncos showed me — and the visiting defending champs — up pretty well.
New England, under the control of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, had never lost any of their ten playoff games. I’d pick them again. That’s simply part of my prediction formula.1
Every sign of success that slid “We’re No. 1″ rings on the hands of the Patriots — not to mention Vladmir Putin — was absent inside the unruly Invesco Field:
- Tom Brady usually limits his turnovers — he had three playoff interceptions in ten games. Tonight he threw two balls into the hands of Denver defenders.
- Brady usually finds his receivers wherever they may roam. Tonight, he overthrew his targets and generally misfired on third downs, fourth downs, and fourth quarter drives.
- Kicker Adam Vinatieri usually sends the ball through the uprights in game-winning situations, notably multiple Super Bowls. Tonight he missed a 40-yard field goal try in the fourth quarter, which would have brought his team within eight points.
- The team usually holds on to the ball, and this year they only had 9 fumbles. Tonight: three fumbles, including two on special teams.
Apart from the Patriots, usually the Broncos lose playoff games unless their quarterback’s name is John Elway. Tonight Jake Plummer, who must have bought Johnny Damon’s hair, didn’t exactly take over the game, but managed it well and let his defense pressure an out-of-sync New England offense during the entire 28 minute, 12 second chunk of time Brady lined up under center.
Denver’s last postseason win was Super Bowl XXXIII, played on January 31, 1999. (So if you didn’t understand the headline by now, now you do.)
The only ingredient to their success souffle stayed unpunctured when Brady threw a touchdown pass to David Givens, keeping alive the streak of seven straight games Givens caught a ball for six points.
In snapping New England’s postseason win streak, Denver now has one of their own: wins over New England in the playoffs. The last time these two groups of large mammals knocked helmets in the postseason was in the ’86 season when Denver ousted New England 22-17 at Mile High Stadium — also in a divisional playoff game.
Next week: The AFC Championship
Most people’s short list of AFC championship favorites included the Colts, Patriots, and perhaps the Bengals. Little buzz was around the fuzzy Plummer and his band of merry men. But while Denver awaits their opponent next weekend (the winner of the Colts/Steelers game), expect many people talking about the emergence and resurgence of the once-inconsistent quarterback from Arizona State. Also expect many occurrences of the phrase “Jake in progress.”
Either that, or the toothpick-sized attention span of sports fans will shift to Indianapolis, provided they beat the Steelers on Sunday, and label them as the likely AFC kings.
Regardless of the outcome of next week’s AFC Championship game, the Broncos franchise has moved in the right direction, and an annoying monkey has been removed from Denver coach Mike Shanahan’s back. And it’s now living in Plummer’s beard.
1. — My prediction formula, especially in playoffs, favors the defending champions. I used this in picking a winner in the Rose Bowl, where USC was the favorite and Texas had to prove to me they could beat the best to be the best.