Broncos hold off Patriots, 20-18, for eighth AFC title, will face Panthers in Super Bowl 50

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DENVER -- The Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years and for the eighth time overall Sunday, using a stifling defense to hold off the New England Patriots, 20-18, at a frantic Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Just like two years ago in the AFC title game against the Patriots, the Broncos never trailed, intercepting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady twice, sacking him four times and battering him all game.

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Trailing by eight, the Patriots started a drive from their 29-yard line with 4:35 to play.

Brady quickly moved the Patriots into Broncos territory on 15-yard pass to James White and a 28-yarder to Rob Gronkowski with three minutes to play. A penalty helped the Patriots get to the Broncos 9.

On third-and-1, the Patriots were called for a false start, pushing them back to the 14. Brady's pass to Danny Amendola was dropped and on fourth down, Brady's pass for Gronkowski was knocked away with 2:18 to play.

Still, the Patriots had all of their timeouts and used two of them and after an incomplete pass, the Broncos had to punt with 2:05 to play.

The Patriots took over at midfield with 1:52 to play. Brady was incomplete on first down and nearly sacked on second down before throwing away the ball.

On third down, Brady again nearly was sacked, this time by DeMarcus Ware, but he threw the ball away. On fourth-and-10, Brady floated the ball for Gronkowski, who made an incredible catch at the 10 for a first down with one minute to play.

With the clock ticking, Brady tried a short dump pass on first down but was incomplete. On second down, Brady threw to the left to Julian Edelman for a 6-yard gain. The Patriots didn't use their last timeout and with the clock running, Brady was hit again and threw the ball away.

After a timeout, Brady somehow found Gronkowski in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown to make it 20-18 with 12 seconds to play.

On the two-point conversion, the ball was tipped by Aqib Talib and intercepted by Bradley Roby to all but seal it. The Patriots attempted an onside kick, but the Broncos recovered to end it.

The Broncos will play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7 at Santa Clara, Calif., after the Panthers won the NFC Championship Game, 49-15. They will be seeking their first championship in 17 years, when they won the second of their back-to-back titles.

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Relive the game below as it unfolded.

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The Patriots won the toss and decided to take the ball to test the Broncos defense. After getting one first down, the defense rose up and forced a punt.

The Broncos then took their first possession and impressively drove 83 yards in 11 plays, with Peyton Manning completing 4 of 6 passes for 60 yards, including a 15-yard bootleg to Andre Caldwell.

The drive was capped when Manning found Owen Daniels over the middle for a 21-yard pass play and a 7-0 lead with 7:32 to play in the first quarter.

The Broncos had a critical turnover late in the first quarter when a Manning screen pass for Ronnie Hillman was incomplete. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick challenged the play and it was ruled a backward pass that New England recovered at the Broncos 22-yard line.

Two plays later, running back Steven Jackson scored from 1 yard out, but Steven Gostkowski pushed the extra point wide right with 1:49 left in the first quarter as the Broncos held on to a 7-6 lead.

The Broncos got their first turnover early in the second quarter when Von Miller intercepted Tom Brady at the Patriots 16-yard line. Two plays later, Manning connected again with Daniels, this time from 12 yards to make it 14-6 with 13:46 left in the second quarter.

The Patriots responded, going on a 13-play, 48-yard drive that was aided by a dubious illegal contact penalty by the Broncos.

But facing third-and-3, Miller and DeMarcus Ware sacked Brady, forcing the Patriots to settle for a 46-yard field goal by Gostkowski to trim the Broncos' lead to 14-9 with 7:02 left in the first half.

After the Broncos went three-and-out and the Patriots got good field position thanks to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, the defense rose again.

Malik Jackson charged in on Brady on third-and-5 and drilled him as he threw the ball, which was intercepted by Darian Stewart and returned 8 yards to the Broncos 44 yard line with 4:08 to play in the first half.

The teams exchanged punts and the Broncos started on their 44-yard line with 1:46 to play. Manning then directed the Broncos into Patriots territory, but the drive stalled at the Patriots 33-yard line.

Brandon McManus then came in and drilled a 52-yard field goal to put the Broncos ahead, 17-9 with 33 seconds left in the first half.

The Broncos finished the first half with 161 yards to 114 yards for the Patriots. Both teams had eight first downs. Manning was 10 of 20 for 128 yards and two touchdowns, while Brady was 9 of 20 for 87 yards and two interceptions.

The Broncos came out of halftime and went three-and-out that included a sack of Manning. Brady then moved the Patriots in the Broncos territory, but the drive stalled at the 20 and New England settled for a 38-yard field goal from Gostkowski to cut the Broncos' lead to 17-12 with 10:26 to play in the third quarter.

The Broncos went ahead, 20-12, after McManus made a 31-yard field goal with 10:02 to play in the game. The 10-play, 48-yard drive included a huge 30-yard run by C.J. Anderson on third-and-1.

The Patriots drove into Broncos territory and faced fourth-and-1 with less than six minutes to play. The Patriots went for it and Brady dumped a pass to the left to Julian Edelman, but he was quickly tackled by Chris Harris and Aqib Talib short of the first down, giving the Broncos the ball back.

But they went three-and-out, giving the Patriots another chance from their 29-yard line.

Brady quickly moved the Patriots into Broncos territory on 15-yard pass to James White and a 28-yarder to Rob Gronkowski with three minutes to play. A penalty helped the Patriots get to the Broncos 9.

On third-and-1, the Patriots were called for a false start, pushing them back to the 14. Brady's pass to Danny Amendola was dropped and on fourth down, Brady's pass for Gronkowski was knocked away with 2:18 to play.

The Patriots had three timeouts and used two of them, forcing the Broncos to punt and getting the ball back at midfield with 1:52 to play. Brady was incomplete on first down and nearly sacked on second down before throwing away the ball.

On third down, Brady again nearly was sacked, this time by DeMarcus Ware, but he threw the ball away. On fourth-and-10, Brady floated the ball for Gronkowski, who made an incredible catch at the 10 for a first down with one minute to play.

With the clock ticking, Brady tried a short dump pass on first down but was incomplete. On second down, Brady threw to the left to Julian Edelman for a 6-yard gain. The Patriots didn't use their last timeout and with the clock running, Brady was hit again and threw the ball away.

After a timeout, Brady somehow found Gronkowski in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown to make it 20-18 with 12 seconds to play.

On the two-point conversion, the ball was tipped by Aqib Talib and intercepted by Bradley Roby to all but seal it. The Patriots attempted an onside kick, but the Broncos recovered to end it.

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