Final

Broncos 10

(8-8, 5-3 away)

Patriots 45

(13-3, 7-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

8:00 PM ET, January 14, 2012

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA 

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 0 7 3 010
NE 14 21 7 345

Top Performers

Passing: T. Brady (NE) - 363 YDS, 6 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: W. McGahee (DEN) - 17 CAR, 76 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: R. Gronkowski (NE) - 10 REC, 145 YDS, 3 TD

Tom Brady fuels record night as Pats end Tim Tebow's run with rout

Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tebowmania had no chance against Tom Brady's playoff pedigree.

All the heroics, all the big plays and quite a few records belonged to Brady and the New England Patriots on Saturday night in a 45-10 rout of overmatched Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Brady threw six touchdown passes, five in the first half, putting the Patriots into the AFC Championship Game and silencing the nationwide frenzy surrounding Tebow.

The Patriots (14-3), winners of nine straight games, will host either Baltimore or Houston next Sunday for a spot in the Super Bowl. Saturday night's romp snapped a three-game postseason losing streak, two of those at Gillette Stadium, and lifted the Patriots to the verge of their fifth Super Bowl appearance in 11 seasons. They've won three of those, two with Brady as the game's MVP.

"We came in and started fast and it was a big win for us," said Brady, who even got off a 48-yard punt on third down.

"I have no idea about records and stuff like that. Anytime you score 45, obviously with the help of our defense, and special teams played great -- hopefully we can go out next week and play even better."

From the first snap, this was a mismatch. The Patriots were not going to make the same mistakes the Steelers made against this team.

"He's been around the block a few times," cornerback Champ Bailey said of Brady. "He knows how to win games. If you're not ready to punch him in the mouth he's going to eat you up all night."

A nation transfixed by Tebow's play, if not his religious beliefs, tuned in Saturday to see if he had any more magic in store for Brady and company. He had nothing left as the Patriots made this must-see TV only for those who live in New England.

"Any time you're getting beat like that, it doesn't change how you fight," Tebow said. "It didn't matter whether it was the first play or the last play or whether we're down by 42. ... I wanted to be the same player."

With New England up 42-7, the fans began their derisive Teeee-bow chants. On the next play, the Broncos quarterback was sacked for an 11-yard loss -- one of five sacks for New England's 31st-ranked defense.

"We went out and played very hard and good things happened," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "A great team win."

And so ended one of the season's most exciting story lines -- one that began when Denver was 1-4 and made Tebow a starter. The one-time third-stringer promptly won six in a row and seven of eight, with a string of stunning comebacks.

"A lot of ups and downs," Tebow said of his second NFL season. "Overall, it's been a very special opportunity for me, something I'm really thankful for. There's a lot of things we're proud of. Obviously, it's hard to see them all right now."

That winning surge ended with a 41-23 home loss to New England, and the Broncos dropped their next two, backing into the AFC West title.

But they rebounded nicely in their first playoff game since the 2005 season with the longest overtime touchdown in playoff history, an 80-yard catch and run by Demaryius Thomas against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Like everyone else on the Broncos' offense, Thomas was invisible against the Patriots.

Denver couldn't cover or tackle All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who tied a postseason mark with three touchdown catches, all in the opening half. Brady toyed with the Broncos (9-9), throwing more TD passes than Tebow had completions (three) in the first 30 minutes.

"We were playing complementary football, and it was awesome," Gronkowski said. "Obviously, you can't start off the game any better than that."

Brady's sixth TD was to his other tight end, Aaron Hernandez, as the quarterback tied Steve Young and Daryle Lamonica for the most in a postseason game.

The two-time league MVP threw for 5,235 yards during the season, second in NFL history to Drew Brees' 5,476 in 2011. He looked ready to get that much against the Broncos as he moved to third place in career touchdown passes in the playoffs with 36, trailing Joe Montana (45) and Brett Favre (44).

Brady was 26 for 34 for 363 yards and Gronkowski made 10 catches for 145 yards as the Patriots gained 509 yards in all. In stark contrast, Tebow was 9 for 26 for 136 yards.

The Broncos won the coin toss and elected to defer. Bad idea: They never were in the game after that.

Brady hit his first eight passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who's leaving to become Penn State's coach once the Patriots are done, threw in a wrinkle by using Hernandez as a running back. On one of those plays, Hernandez broke free down the left sideline for a 43-yard gain, the team's longest run this season.

But with the ball in his hands and a 14-0 lead, Brady momentarily stumbled. His throw over the middle for Julian Edelman sailed directly to safety Quinton Carter, whose weaving return set up Denver at the New England 24.

Willis McGahee scored on a 5-yard run.

Carter left the game moments later with a neck injury; Denver was already without strong safety Brian Dawkins with a neck problem. And it's secondary had no chance without them.

Yes, Brady had cooled off in the 24-degree temperature (wind chill of 12), but only for a while.

Using the no-huddle, and aided by an effective running game, Brady hit three passes for 31 yards, with Gronkowski getting free over the middle this time for the 12-yard score. Several times, and not just on his romps into the end zone, Gronkowski simply shoved aside would-be tacklers to tack on yards after catches.

Brady's TDs covered 10, 12 and 19 yards to Gronkowski, 7 to Wes Welker, 61 to Deion Branch and 17 yards to Hernandez early in the third quarter. Coach Bill Belichick wasn't about to back off at that point, but the Patriots stalled inside the Denver 5 early in the four period and Stephen Gostkowski made a 21-yard field goal to conclude New England's scoring.

Hernandez left in the fourth quarter with a head injury.

"He's feeling great," Gronkowski said. "Hernandez is a beast and I love playing with him and everything."

On Brady's surprise punt, which Belichick said they had worked on for years without using, Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller slammed into the back of New England's Dan Connolly, who wasn't looking. Matt Light then shoved Miller, Connolly turned around and got into a pushing match with Miller as several players joined in and shoved each other, spilling onto the Patriots' sideline.

Miller drew an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Game notes


Brady holds team records for most playoff games with three or more TD passes (four); most yards passing in a playoff game (363); most postseason completions (450); most yards passing in postseason (4,770); most TD passes for a career (36); and most postseason victories for a quarterback (15). ... In addition to Carter's injury, S David Bruton left with a concussion in the third period. DT Brodrick Bunkley also left in that quarter, with a concussion.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
DEN
NE
1st Downs1531
Passing 1st downs
719
Rushing 1st downs
79
1st downs from Penalties
13
3rd down efficiency
7-183-6
4th down efficiency
2-30-0
Total Plays7164
Total Yards252509
Yards per play3.58.0
Total Drives1312
Passing108363
Comp - Att
9-2626-34
Yards per pass
4.210.7
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks - Yards Lost
5-280-0
Rushing144146
Rushing Attempts
4030
Yards per rush
3.64.9
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-35-6
Penalties5-552-20
Turnovers12
Fumbles lost
11
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession33:2326:37

Passing Leaders

DENC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Tebow9/261365.2005-28
NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady26/3436310.7610-0

Rushing Leaders

DENCARYDSAVGTDLG
McGahee17764.5119
Ball13443.4013
NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Hernandez56112.2043
Green-E...13282.209

Receiving Leaders

DENRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Thomas69315.504110
Royal22512.50158
NERECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Gronkowski1014514.532812
Branch38528.31614

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERDENNE
neTD13:09Wes Welker 7 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 07
neTD06:42Rob Gronkowski 10 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 014
SECOND QUARTERDENNE
denTD14:54Willis McGahee 5 Yd Run (Matt Prater Kick) 714
neTD07:42Rob Gronkowski 12 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 721
neTD01:57Deion Branch 61 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 728
neTD00:05Rob Gronkowski 19 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 735
THIRD QUARTERDENNE
neTD11:46Aaron Hernandez 17 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 742
denFG02:14Matt Prater 41 Yd 1042
FOURTH QUARTERDENNE
neFG12:39Stephen Gostkowski 20 Yd 1045

Research Notes

Tom Brady threw 6 pass TD, giving him 36 in his career and moving into 3rd place on the all-time career postseason TD list.
  [+]
Tom Brady threw for 363 yards moving into 5th place on the all-time career postseason passing yards list.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: The Patriots substituted out of their base defense only 10 times on 70 plays, not counting Tim Tebow's kneel to close out the first half. Not only does the 85.7 base-defense percentage shatter New England's previous single-game mark this season (58.5 percent, Week 5 vs Jets), it's the second-highest for any team in a game this season (excluding kneels or spikes).
  [+]

BradyIn the past two postseasons, opponents have sat back and dared Tom Brady to find holes in their coverages. On Saturday, Brady found the holes, found open receivers and fueled a record-breaking romp.

  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: Rob Gronkowski also tied a postseason record with 3 touchdown receptions, including 2 from Tom Brady on passes that traveled 6 to 14 yards downfield. Gronkowski, who led the NFL in touchdown receptions (17) in the regular season, was also the league leader on touchdown receptions on passes 6 to 14 yards downfield with 6.
NEXT LEVEL: Tom Brady's postseason record-tying 6 touchdown passes did not come on deep throws. Brady picked his way through the Broncos defense Saturday with passes that traveled 6 to 14 yards downfield, including 4 of his 6 touchdown passes, improving upon his regular season statistics on passes that distance.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: Tim Tebow completed only 1-of-6 passes on throws of at least 15 yards downfield Saturday, a week after he threw for 276 yards and 2 touchdowns on throws of that distance. Tebow didn't air it out Saturday, as he averaged only 8.5 air yards per attempt, compared to 12.3 in the regular season, highest in the NFL.
  [+]
At least the Broncos can say they have lost to the best when their defense has given up the most points in the postseason. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana have combined to throw for 15 touchdowns against Denver's defense in 3 of the most disappointing postseason losses in franchise history.
  [+]

TebowExcluding the kneel by Tim Tebow to end the firstst half, the Broncos had 14 negative plays, the most in a game this season. It's the most in a playoff game since the Steelers had 14 in the 2007 wild card loss at home to the Jaguars.

  [+]
From Elias: FROM ELIAS: Tom Brady's 5 Pass TD are the most in any half of a game in NFL postseason history. In fact, the last player to throw 5 Pass TD in any half of any game was Brady, who threw 5 in the 1st half in Week 6 of the 2009 season against the Titans.

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