INJURED SAFETIES EXPECT TO RETURN
The Broncos’ secondary became compromised in the second half Sunday. Free safety Darian Stewart, one of the league’s best offseason acquisitions, sprained his knee in the third quarter. Strong safety T.J. Ward reinjured his ankle in the fourth.
Neither player returned, leaving cornerback Chris Harris to play safety on some plays. “I have never practiced in this defense (at safety),” he said.
The Patriots threatened throughout the fourth quarter but scored only in the final seconds.
“When you get in this situations, you just go back to your technique,” said reserve safety Josh Bush. “We had to trust it.”
Stewart said there was “no question” he would be back for the Super Bowl. Ward also said his ankle injury would not keep him from playing in two weeks.
Manning bonus baby.
By advancing to the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning’s salary cut isn’t as deep. The Broncos slashed him by $4 million but gave him a chance to claw it back through performance. By winning the AFC championship game and playing 70 percent of the offensive snaps, he triggered a $2 million bonus. An identical escalator remains for the Super Bowl.
The Broncos won their 11th game this season by seven points or fewer, passing the 2003 Carolina Panthers for most in NFL history. Denver is 11-3 in such games.
Captains past, present.
Former Broncos Terrell Davis, Steve Atwater and John Lynch were honorary game-day captains for the Broncos. They were joined by DeMarcus Ware (defense), Demaryius Thomas (offense) and Kayvon Webster (special teams) in representing the team at midfield for the coin toss.
Davis, Atwater and Lynch are finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016, which will be selected Saturday, Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Owen Daniels entered the game as the only Broncos player to have caught a touchdown pass from Manning in Denver this season, against Minnesota on Oct. 4.
He remained the only touchdown target for Manning at home this season, but he had two more scores to his total. Daniels had a 21-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, then pulled in a 12-yard TD catch in the second.
The first-quarter touchdown pass was Manning’s first since Nov. 8, in a loss at Indianapolis, and his first this season on a game-opening drive for the Broncos.
The Denver Police Department had fun with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s first-half struggles against the Broncos.
“MISSING PERSONS unit heading to @SportsAuthField to try & locate Patriots Offense. GO @Broncos,” the department tweeted.
Brady completed only 9-of-20 passes for 87 yards, was sacked twice, threw two interceptions and recorded an 18.1 passer rating in the first half as the Broncos jumped to a 17-9 lead.
Singer-songwriter Andy Grammer performed the national anthem. … Before the game, multiple Patriots players complained about the turf at Sports Authority Field at Mile high. They said, according to Boston reports, that it felt like cement. … Manning improved to 9-15 against the Patriots all time and 8-12 against coach Bill Belichick. … Sunday’s announced crowd of 77,112 represented the second-largest in Broncos’ history. Only 45 tickets went unused. … Manning’s 12-yard rush in the first quarter was the first time he had run for a first down on thirdand-10 or longer since Week 5 of 2002 against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he was quarterbacking the Indianapolis Colts.