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Well the Super Bowl matchup has been set.  It is the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks.  What a Super Bowl this should be.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think may have had this correct back from the NFL preview blog before the season began.  Suer a lot of people probably had this, but I'll take it when I'm right.  How did this matchup come about?  Let's find out and get to some reaction in "the stack" for today, Monday, January 20:

Denver 26 New England 16

This time, Peyton Manning had the last laugh.  Manning's Denver Broncos beat Tom Brady's New England Patriots 26-16 to advance to Super Bowl XLVII.  The Broncos had to punt on their opening possession, but scored on their next six and the did so methodically.  They took time off of the clock to keep it out of Brady's hands.  New England ran it like crazy against Indianapolis last week with tremendous success.  They had no success against Denver, in part because it was Denver who controlled the time of possession.  Denver's defense rose to the occasion.   They bottled up New England's ground game and didn't allow a touchdown until the fourth quarter when the Patriots were in full scramble and comeback mode.  Brady and company just couldn't get much going until it was too late.

Manning meanwhile was brilliant all day.  The Broncos run game was effective and that allowed Manning to have a masterful day throwing the football.  A ho-hum 32-43 for 400 yards and two touchdowns.  He was awesome.  When Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib left the game after suffering an injury when he was picked by Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, that really opened the field for Manning.  Not saying that he wouldn't have had a good day even if Talib was on the field, but with Talib gone, it made it that much easier for Manning and the Broncos offense.  We've seen Peyton wilt under the pressure of the playoff in years past.  This team is loaded, moreso than any of his other playoff teams perhaps.  That helps take the pressure off of Manning's shoulders.  The wide receivers, tight ends and running backs he has makes this a team that puts up points in bunches and easily.  

What may be most impressive about the Broncos playoff run this year is how their defense has stepped up to the challenge.  They have contained the Chargers run game and the Patriots run game in consecutive weeks and haven't allowed a touchdown to an opponent in the first three quarters this season.  Will that continue for the Super Bowl?  We have two weeks to discuss.

The Patriots should not feel bad about how this season ended.  Given all of the players they lost on both sides of the ball (Pro Bowlers no less), this has been a remarkable job by everyone involved, most notably head coach Bill Belichick and Brady himself.  They'll re-tool, re-group and reload for another run at the title next year, you can book it.

 

Seattle 23 San Francisco 17

Both teams hate each other and that didn't and certainly won't change after this game.  The Seattle Seahawks were far from perfect, but did enough playing great defense and getting help from their crowd in upending the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 to advance to Super Bowl XLVII.  It didn't look good early when on the first play of the game Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson got sacked and fumbled the football with the 49ers recovering.  The Seahawks defense limited the 49ers to just a field goal though.  They didn't really seem to have an answer for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick though, who ran the ball at will against Seattle, particularly in the first half.  He had a 58-yard run in the first half and 130 yards rushing in the game.  He was great doing that, passing was a little suspect from time to time.

The Seahawks were a mess offensively in the first half.  The couldn't get anyting going.  Wilson made several bad decisions in the half and in the game for that matter.  In fact, apart from his fourth down touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, he was outplayed.  He has not played well in the postseason so far.  Marshawn Lynch tied the game up with a big 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but San Francisco answered back.  The Seahawks looked like they were not going to get it all together for the win until Wilson's big fourth down touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.  The Seahawks lined up to go for a field goal, but called timeout to discuss.  The timeout was wise.  A hard snapcount drew the 49ers offsides and Wilson found Jermaine Kearse for the touchdown.  The defense came up with a couple of big turnovers including one late to seal the deal (you may have heard cornerback Richard Sherman say something about it).

What a tough and physical game.  The 49ers suffered a couple of nasty injuries to linebacker NaVorro Bowman and guard Mike Iupati.  They were the recipient of a bad call that could have really caused headaches at the league office today (Bowman's fumble recovery where his ACL got torn causing him to let go of the ball and the Seahawks to recover.  Seattle fumbled it on 4th down on the next play).  Three straight years in the NFC Championship game isn't bad though.  Unfortunately, this year they won't be making a second straight Super Bowl appearance.  The 49ers will be around though for a while.

 

Denver Broncos versus the Seattle Seahawks.  Offense versus defense.  This is going to be a fun one.  We have two weeks to discuss it.  Can't wait.  What a great championship Sunday.

 

Coming up Tuesday: Reaction to top stories in sports

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