The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will meet in Super Bowl XLVII at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey after winning their respective conference championships on Sunday.
In a matchup that failed to live up to the pregame excitement, the Broncos held off a late rally by the New England Patriots to win the AFC, 26-16. It was a game billed as a duel between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, and the two veteran quarterbacks shined, but some early struggles by the Patriots doomed their chances of upsetting the Broncos on a sunny and relatively warm afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
New England put up just three points in the first three quarters, but managed to score two touchdowns in the fourth to cut into Denver's big lead. The Broncos were able to accrue 507 total yards, which was enough to hold off the Patriots' late rally and win the AFC title.
Manning completed 32 of his 43 pass attempts for 400 yards and two touchdowns, while the Broncos rushed for 107 yards on 28 carries. Brady had a strong game, as well, completing 24-of-39 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown.
"It's an exciting feeling (to get back to the Super Bowl)," said Manning. "You take a moment to realize we have done something special here and certainly want to win one more.
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"You have to take time to savor the moment. Being in my 16th season and going to my third Super Bowl I know how hard it is to get there. It is extremely difficult."
The NFC Championship was far more dramatic. In the final minute, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's pass in the end zone to Michael Crabtree was tipped by cornerback Richard Sherman to teammate Malcolm Smith for an interception that would effectively end the game and keep Seattle's hopes of a first Super Bowl title alive.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll described the 23-17 victory as a "magical moment."
The 49ers entered the fourth quarter with a 17-13 lead, but a 35-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse and a 47-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka put Seattle up for good.
Turnovers may have been the deciding factor. San Francisco gave the ball back three times, while Seattle turned the ball over once in a very even game. Both teams put up 308 total yards, and the 49ers had 65 penalty yards while the Seahawks had 66.
“The ball thrown to [Crabtree], that really could have gone either way,” said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. “If that goes about an inch or two, Crabtree catches it for a touchdown and we win. But Richard Sherman made a terrific play.”
"We knew it would come down to us in the back end to win this thing," said Sherman, who was particularly animated in television on-field interviews with reporters Erin Andrews and Ed Werder immediately following the game.
The Broncos and Seahawks will meet on Feb. 2.