• Jan 24:
  • Kiszla: Peyton Manning's horse hasn't been thrown out of rodeo yet
  • Injured Broncos safeties expected to return for Super Bowl
  • Rob Gronkowski a big test for short-handed Broncos defensive backs
  • Paige:
    These Broncos may surpass the Orange Crush
  • Peyton Manning savors sweet Broncos victory, AFC championship
  • Tom Brady on Broncos' pass rush: "I got hit pretty hard"
  • Broncos' bests/worsts vs. Patriots: Von Miller and Peyton Manning

Only the grass at Sports Authority Field could stop Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller on Sunday.

In the biggest game of his career, Miller had his best performance.

Two and a half sacks, five tackles, two tackles for a loss, four quarterback hits, a pass deflection and an interception that could have been a pick-six if not for him tripping while headed to the end zone.

"I can do it all baby," Miller joked.

Miller and the Broncos' pass rush dominated the Patriots' offensive line. They hit New England quarterback Tom Brady 20 times, eight more hits on a quarterback than they had in any other game this season.

The game plan was clear from the start — turn up the heat on Brady and see how he responds. The result was turnovers. Brady threw two first-half interceptions and went into halftime with a 18.1 passer rating.

Miller found a home in the backfield. Few plays were bigger than his shared sack with a man he calls his idol, DeMarcus Ware, on a third down in the second quarter that forced a field goal.

In a 20-18 Broncos victory, forcing field goals was the difference.

"He's a special player, but being an Aggie, I'm really proud of him," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "I've known him since he was a kid. How far he's come, the man he's become, the player he's become, the leader on this football team."


Defensive end Derek Wolfe struck the first blow. He drove Brady into the dirt and forced a near-interception on third down on the Patriots' opening drive. More important, he sent a message.

"He knew that we were coming early," said Wolfe, who had six tackles, a sack and four quarterback hits. "That kind of got in his head like 'Oh the d-line, they're coming to take my head off.' "

The Broncos defense was celebrating during the game, and crowing afterward.

"We beat the champs twice," cornerback Chris Harris said.

Cornerback Aqib Talib interrupted, "Hey Chris, how many times we beat the champs?"

"We beat the champs twice," Harris repeated.

They knew most of the "experts" picked New England last week, though the Broncos were the No. 1 seed, and playing at home. and had beaten the Patriots earlier this season.

"The scoreboard talks for itself," Miller said.

Denver held New England to 2-of-15 on third down. When needed, the Broncos' defense made the play.

With the season on the line on a two-point conversion attempt that could have forced overtime, Talib batted a pass intended for Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby intercepted it.

Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller.
Outside linebacker Von Miller (58) of the Denver Broncos holds the AFC championship trophy with cornerback Chris Harris (25) of the Denver Broncos (left) and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) of the Denver Broncos (right) after the Broncos defeated the Patriots 20 to 18 in the AFC championship game. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver on Jan. 24, 2016. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

The pass rush struck again with Ware bringing the heat and forcing Brady to throw across his body. It wasn't one of Ware's team-high seven quarterbacks hits, but it got the job done.

"We know defense wins championships," Harris said. "We definitely were angry. Everybody said we couldn't cover and we wanted to come out and prove that we could."

Cameron Wolfe: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @CameronWolfe

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.