Denver Broncos beat New England Patriots 20-18 in AFC Championship

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning passes during the second half of the NFL football AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning passes during the second half of the NFL football AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

DENVER (AP) — Denver Broncos beat New England Patriots 20-18 in AFC Championship.

The Latest from the NFL conference championship games Sunday. (All times EST)

6:43 p.m.

Peyton Manning is headed to the Super Bowl, and so are his Denver Broncos.

Thanks to a ferocious defense that befuddled Tom Brady all day, the Broncos held on for 20-18 win over the New England Patriots and will play the NFC champions in the Super Bowl on Feb.7 in Santa Clara, California.

The Broncos are going to their eighth Super Bowl and looking for their third win. This will be Manning’s second Super Bowl with Denver and fourth overall. He went to two with the Indianapolis Colts.

Oh, what an ending to this AFC title game on Sunday in Denver, too.

Brady hit two fourth-down passes on the final drive, a 40-yarder to Rob Gronkowski and a -4-yard TD pass to Gronkowski with 12 seconds to go to pull the Patriots to 20-18. The 2-point conversion pass was intercepted by the Broncos, who then recovered an onside kick to seal the win.

The Super Bowl, against the winner of the Cardinals-Panthers NFC title game later Sunday, could be the final game of Manning’s career.

___

6:23 p.m.

Once again, the Broncos’ top-ranked defense came up big, stopping the Patriots on fourth down deep in Denver territory.

Tom Brady lobbed a pass into the end zone to Rob Gronkowski, who couldn’t bring it down. Gronkowski complained to the officials that he was held on the play. He didn’t get the call and Denver got the ball back just before the 2-minute warning and with a 20-12 lead.

After stopping the Broncos, the Patriots have the ball back at the 2-minute warning at the 50-yard line.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

6:03 p.m.

The Patriots gambled on fourth-and-1 at the Denver 16 and couldn’t convert in the AFC championship game. Tom Brady completed a short pass to Julian Edelman, who was immediately tackled by Chris Harris Jr. short of the first-down marker, giving the ball back to Denver with 5:56 remaining and a 20-12 lead.

But the Patriots forced the Broncos to punt and have the ball with less than four minutes to go.

___

5:49 p.m.

BRONCOS 20, PATRIOTS 12

Brandon McManus connected from 31 yards and the Broncos extended their lead to 20-12 over New England early in the fourth quarter of the AFC championship game.

The Broncos had first-and-goal at the 10, but couldn’t punch it in. McManus hit from 52 yards just before halftime.

There’s about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

5:40 p.m.

Peyton Manning is 15 minutes away from going to his fourth Super Bowl. The Broncos lead 17-12 in the AFC championship game.

Should Manning go, Von Miller will be a big reason why. The Broncos linebacker has an interception and 2 1/2 sacks, which is a club record for a postseason game.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

5:28 p.m.

Peyton Manning saw some daylight and took off, looking younger than his 39 years and as if he never had suffered a left foot injury. Manning picked up 12 yards — and a first down — in the third quarter of the AFC championship game.

It was his longest postseason run since Jan. 16, 2000, against Tennessee.

The Broncos lead 17-12 late in the third quarter.

___

5:15 p.m.

BRONCOS 17, PATRIOTS 12

Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 38-yard field goal and the Patriots pulled within 17-12 of the Broncos in the AFC championship game.

Gostkowski made a 46-yarder earlier in the game after missing an extra point — his first after an NFL-record 523 consecutive PATs.

Tom Brady had the Patriots on the move until the drive stalled deep in Denver territory. On a third down play, tight end Rob Gronkowski was on the sideline.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

4:55 p.m.

BRONCOS 17, PATRIOTS 9

Brandon McManus capped off an entertaining first half by hitting a 52-yard field goal as the Broncos took a 17-9 lead over the Patriots into the third quarter of the AFC championship game.

The players cleared the field for some musical entertainment as the band American Authors took center stage at the 50-yard line. They’re known for their hit “Best Day of My Life,” which the Broncos and Patriots hope applies to them at the end of the afternoon. A trip to the Super Bowl is on the line.

The star in this game so far has been Denver’s top-ranked defense, which has intercepted Tom Brady twice and sacked him two more times. Peyton Manning is 10 of 20 for 128 yards and two TDs.

Denver has the ball to start the second half.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

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4:40 p.m.

This is an unusual sight: Tom Brady bloodied and picking himself up off the turf. The top-ranked defense of the Denver Broncos is applying plenty of pressure in the AFC championship game.

So far, Brady has thrown two interceptions — something he hasn’t done since Dec. 6 — and been sacked twice. He’s also taken several other big hits.

Brady, who has a scrape just below his elbow, has been off target all afternoon. He’s 9 for 20 for 87 yards.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

4:18 p.m.

BRONCOS 14, PATRIOTS 9

Stephen Gostkowski bounced back from a rare missed extra point to hit a 46-yard field goal as New England pulled within 14-9 in the AFC championship game.

Gostkowski’s kick midway through the second quarter was made possible thanks to Tom Brady’s 11-yard scramble on third down earlier in the drive.

Gostkowski had made an NFL-record 523 consecutive PATs. And he had made all 60 of his kicks in the playoffs.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

4:05 p.m.

BRONCOS 14, PATRIOTS 6

There’s no question who Peyton Manning’s favorite target is Sunday — Owen Daniels, who caught his second touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 14-6 lead in the AFC championship game.

Manning floated a 12-yard pass to Daniels in the corner of the end zone early in the second quarter. Daniels caught a 21-yard TD pass in the first quarter.

The possession was set up by linebacker Von Miller’s interception of Tom Brady. Known as a fierce pass rusher, Miller fooled Brady by dropping into coverage.

Manning came into the game with only one TD pass at home. He now has three.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

3:50 p.m.

BRONCOS 7, PATRIOTS 6

Steven Jackson scored from a yard out, but reliable kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point and the Broncos held a 7-6 in the AFC championship game after the first quarter. Jackson scored with 1:49 left in the period.

Gostkowski didn’t miss an extra point all season. His PAT attempt was wide right.

New England got the ball in great field position after winning a challenge. On the play in question, Peyton Manning threw a swing pass to Ronnie Hillman that was ruled incomplete, with linebacker Jonathan Freeny picking up the bouncing football.

But the Patriots challenged and the call was overturned, giving them the ball on the Denver 22.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

3:40 p.m.

Turns out, New England does have a punter and his name is Ryan Allen. The Patriots have punted on three straight possessions in the AFC championship game.

Up to then, Tom Brady and the offense have picked up just one first down. Brady has been sacked once and knocked down another time.

Allen is averaging 49 yards on three punts.

___

3:25 p.m.

BRONCOS 7, PATRIOTS 0

It wasn’t in the forecast for tight end Owen Daniels to score before Rob Gronkowski in the AFC championship game. But there was Daniels, a part-time meteorologist, wide open for a 21-yard TD catch to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead over the Patriots midway through the first quarter.

Peyton Manning took advantage of a blown assignment by the Patriots to find Daniels, who waltzed into the end zone.

Manning had a nifty move earlier in the drive, when he escaped outside on a bootleg play. He looked more like a 29-year-old than a 39-year-old who’s been dealing with foot injuries.

It was just Manning’s second TD pass at home this season. Both have been to Daniels.

— Pat Graham reporting from Denver.

___

3:07 p.m.

Even before the AFC championship game started, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a statement by taking the ball first.

The Patriots won the coin flip and wanted to receive. Typically, teams defer to the second half.

The game is underway in Denver, with the opening kick a touchback. The referee is Ed Hochuli.

___

2:42 p.m.

To make sure his hands stay nice and toasty on this sunny, 46-degree day, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is wearing gloves for the AFC title game against New England.

Fellow QB Tom Brady is opting to go with a glove only on his left hand.

The temperature is expected to be in the mid- to upper-40s most of the afternoon. There’s a chance of rain later in the evening, but the game should be over by then and one of these teams will be on their way to the Super Bowl.

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