Broncos defeat Patriots to reach Super Bowl
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos calls a play in the third quarter against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado - by Jamie Squire
Manning completed 32-of-43 passes for 400 yards to spark the Broncos into the National Football League's title game for the first time since back-to-back wins in 1998 and 1999.
Denver will face the winner of Sunday's later playoff game between Seattle and San Francisco in Super Bowl 48 on February 2 in suburban New York.
"It's very rewarding when you put in so much hard work and it pays off with the win in a big game," Manning said.
"We've kept our nose to the grindstone, kept persevering and it feels great to get this win."
Manning, who set new one-season NFL passing yardage and touchdown records for the highest-scoring team in league history this season, evened his record in playoff games against New England rival Tom Brady to 2-2.
"We just didn't make enough plays," Brady said. "We dug a pretty big hole and they played really well. Peyton played great. They just made more plays than we did. They were certainly the better team today."
Broncos coach John Fox, who underwent heart surgery in November, coached Carolina to the Super Bowl 10 years ago but said of his club: "I couldn't be prouder of a group of men in my life."
Matt Prater kicked a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter to put Denver ahead and the Broncos increased their edge when Manning flipped a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme to cap a 93-yard, 15-play march.
Knowshown Moreno ran four times for 42 yards on the seven-minute drive that gave Denver a 10-0 edge.
The Patriots, in their first road playoff game since 2007, responded with a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski but Prater answered with another for Denver from 35 yards to put the Broncos ahead 13-3 at half-time.
Manning began the third quarter by leading the Broncos on their longest scoring drive of the campaign, a 7:08 march that went 80 yards in 13 plays and ended with Manning's 3-yard touchdown pass to DeMaryius Thomas.
Brady, who rallied the Patriots from a 24-0 deficit to defeat Denver in the regular season for the greatest comeback of his career, struggled most of the day against Denver's defenders.
He was sacked for a 10-yard loss by Terrance Knighton on a fourth-down play to end the Patriots' first possession of the second half at the Denver 39-yard line, continuing Brady's frustration against Denver defenders.
The ball went back to the Broncos and Manning marched the hosts downfield for a 19-yard Prater field goal and a 23-3 lead with 12:02 to play.
New England pulled within 13 points on Brady's 7-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 9:26 remaining, but Prater's fourth field goal, from 54 yards, stretched Denver's lead to 26-10 with seven minutes remaining.
Brady directed the Patriots 80 yards in 10 plays and scored on a 5-yard run, but Denver's defense stopped Shane Vereen's 2-point conversion run attempt and New England trailed 26-16 with 3:07 remaining.
The Broncos took the ensuing kickoff and ran the final seconds off the clock for the triumph.
The NFL championship spectacle at East Rutherford, New Jersey, will be the first in Super Bowl history staged outdoors in a cold-climate city.
Manning will try to win his second NFL title in the home stadium of his little brother Eli, whose Giants won two years ago at Indianapolis, then the home stadium of Peyton while with the Colts.
The weather forecast is for the coldest conditions in Super Bowl history with a chance of rain or show showers and temperatures between 37 and 25 degrees (2.7 to -3.8 Celsius).