When the Denver Broncos hosted the New England Patriots in the conference championship game on Jan. 19, it was a contest that featured two of the best quarterbacks in the game -- Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
That being said, you knew it would be a great battle regardless of which team came out on top.
Although Brady had history on his side, with a 10-4 record against Manning, it was the Broncos who emerged with a 26-16 victory, earning their first trip to the Super Bowl since 1999.
Here is a quick look at what we learned from this Broncos' victory.
Peyton Manning is the man
There was a lot of doubt as to whether or not Manning could lead another team to the big game with Brady standing in his way once again.
And if you happen to be one of those people who doubted Manning's ability to rise to the occasion with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, then shame on you.
Manning completed 32 of 43 passes for 400 yards along with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Not too bad for a guy who missed the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury, and let's not forget that his Broncos were bounced from the divisional round a year ago.
Not only did Manning have a solid outing from a statistical standpoint, it was the way he accumulated those numbers that tell the story.
There were not a ton of big plays to speak of, but Manning took what the Patriots' defense gave him and he methodically led his team on six scoring drives in eight possessions.
Broncos dominate line of scrimmage
When a quarterback has a great outing like Manning did against the Patriots, a lot of that usually has to do with the offensive line.
Behind the solid play of this unit, the Broncos cranked out 507 yards to total offense, while holding the ball for nearly 60 percent of the game, and as a result, Peyton became just the third quarterback to throw for at least 400 yards in three separate games.
One of the best ways to beat a team with a great quarterback, is to limit his scoring opportunities. And thanks to the play of the guys in the trenches, the Broncos were able to do exactly that.
Lack of ground attack doomed Patriots
In their 43-22 win over the Indianapolis Colts a week ago, the Patriots recorded six touchdowns (all rushing) en route to their third straight game of at least 200 yards on the ground.
Against the Broncos however, their running game was ineffective to say the least. In fact, the Patroits only accumulated 64 rushing yards and had to abandon the ground game entirely once they fell behind 20-3 in the third quarter.
Tom Brady comeback bid falls short
Brady did not play a bad game, but it was an ordinary outing by his standards.
He completed 24 of 38 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown, but most of those yards came in the fourth quarter, as he attempted to help his team overcome a double-digit deficit.
Although Brady did lead his team to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, it wasn't enough to beat a Denver team that was clicking on all cylinders for most of the game.
John Elway's gamble pays off
According to Jeff Legwold of ESPN, Broncos executive John Elway made a promise to Peyton Manning when they discussed the possbility of signing with Denver nearly two years ago.
What was the promise? That he would do all he could to ensure that Manning ended his career the same way he did 15 years earlier--with a Super Bowl ring.
With the win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, not only did the Broncos move one step closer to fulfilling that promise, but it also provided Manning the opportunity to lead two different teams to the big game.
James Tillman III is a resident of the Chicago-land area, who follows all the teams in the local region. James is currently a sports contributor for various sites including Football Nation, Sports Kings/Pass the Pill and Sports Rantz Magazine. James is also a former Featured Sports Contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @jtillman9693