DENVER — If the Broncos’ 20-18 win over the Patriots on Sunday reminded Giants fans of two other notable playoff games against the Patriots, it’s no coincidence. The formula was almost identical to what the Giants did in their two Super Bowl victories over Tom Brady.
It went something like this: Put as much pressure on Brady as you possibly can with the pass rush, hit him whenever possible and disrupt the Patriots’ passing game.
The Giants carried out that plan to perfection in beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII after the 2007 season and Super Bowl XLVI after the 2011 season. And the Broncos were remarkably similar in how they attacked the Patriots.
The only noteworthy difference: There were no spectacular late-game passes from a Manning in this one. Peyton was efficient, if unspectacular, while Eli’s late heroics — stunning completions to David Tyree in his first Super Bowl win and Mario Manningham in his second — sparked the comeback wins.
“We came into this game knowing what we had to do,” said Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who had 2½ sacks. “We knew if we could get that done that the game was going to be over with.”
Brady never had a chance in one of the worst playoff games of his career. He was 27-for-56 for 310 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times and was pressured on numerous other attempts.
“We could just never really get into a rhythm with what we were doing,” Brady said. “They did some good things defensively. We had some plays offensively I think we should have made, and we just didn’t make them.”
Brady experienced similar frustration in his Super Bowl losses to the Giants, although he wasn’t willing to say this one was identical to those two losses.
“This is a different game,” he said. “When you play quarterback, you’re going to take hits, and that’s part of it. You’ve got to stay in there and make the throws. There’s no excuses for me not getting the job done. Our guys fought hard.”
Despite not being sharp for most of the game, Brady still put the Patriots in position to tie the score at the end and force overtime. On fourth-and-10 from the 50 with 1:34 to play, he hit tight end Rob Gronkowski streaking down the middle of the field for a 40-yard gain. After sandwiching two incompletions around a 6-yard pass to Julian Edelman, Brady again came through on fourth down, hitting Gronkowski in the end zone. The 4-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds remaining brought the Patriots within two points.
Because kicker Stephen Gostkowski had missed an earlier extra point — only his second career PAT miss — the Patriots had to go for the two-point conversion. But Brady, under a heavy rush, had his pass for Edelman knocked away by cornerback Aqib Talib, a former Patriots defender, and intercepted by Bradley Roby.
“We had some good momentum in the fourth quarter. We were moving the ball,” Brady said. “We just didn’t quite get it in when we needed to.”
Brady fell one victory short of trying to become the first quarterback with five Super Bowl victories. He was playing his record 10th AFC Championship Game and was attempting to become the first Super Bowl repeat champion since his Patriots won titles after the 2003-04 seasons.
“I want to win it every year,” he said of the Super Bowl. “I’d love to finish in the last game of the year and win it. It’s a pretty tough thing to do. Hopefully I have more opportunities for that.”