by Justin Henry
Cold Hard Football Facts' Dr. Death (@jrhwriting)
Peyton Manning joins an exclusive club with Kurt Warner and Craig Morton, becoming just the third quarterback in NFL history to take two different teams to Super Bowls. After splitting a pair as Indianapolis' heralded leader, Manning now takes the Denver Broncos to their seventh Super Bowl, following a 26-16 home win over the New England Patriots.
While the narrative of Manning and Tom Brady's friendly-yet-fierce rivalry dominated the game, it
was a claustrophobia-inducing performance from Denver's defense that set much of the tone. Manning and his offense did the rest, though if they hadn't been held to so many field goals, the game would have likely been a blowout in Denver's favor.
1. Defense Barely Buckles
The Patriots offense generally scored at a solid clip in 2013, averaging 13.86 yards per point scored (ninth best in the NFL). Denver ranked in the lower end in defensive Bendability, allowing a point every 14.28 yards given up. Yet on Sunday, those numbers meant nothing.
The Patriots could only score 16 points on 320 yards gained, giving Denver a top-flight 20.00 Bendability rating. That means the average opponent would need to gain 140 yards to get a touchdown against them. Hemming in Brady was key to this statistic.
2. The Manning Standard
Manning is written off as a choker at times, and it's believed that cold weather is his kryptonite. When the weather called for 64 and sunny, a virtual spring day in Colorado, it seemed "The Sheriff" had luck in his pocket. The numbers back that up.
Manning's rating for the game: 118.36. This includes two touchdown passes on 400 yards, and he completed nearly three out of every four passes. Manning also averaged 9.30 Real Passing Yards Per Attempt, and Denver only had to punt the ball one time.
3. Offense Flawless
Denver ranked second in the NFL in Offensive HOG Index, but placed only 20th in rushing yards per attempt (4.06). Still, they're number one in avoiding Negative Pass Plays (4.32% fail rate) and second in converting third downs (46.34% conversion rate).
Those numbers rang true through the Championship Game, as Denver did not allow a single Negative Pass Play, avoiding sacks and picks altogether. The Broncos also converted seven of 13 third downs, for a 53.85% success rate. All of this supplemented the road to Metlife.