The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks made the most of home-field advantage in the championship games Sunday on the way to winning their respective conferences and advancing to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium Feb. 2.
On a record-breaking 400-yard passing performance, quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos took an early lead and never looked back, as they earned a 26-16 victory over the New England Patriots in Denver. They are making their first trip to the Super Bowl since John Elway, the current executive vice president of football operations, led the team to back-to-back NFL titles.
"I tell you what, it has been a terrific group, they have worked their tail off this whole year. I am excited for them," Elway said during the AFC Championship trophy presentation. "They have been -- the coaching staff, the players -- most of all, the greatest fans in America, right here."
Head coach John Fox added, "It is a great tribute to these players, this staff. I couldn't be more proud of a group of men ever in my life. This goes to them."
Manning completed 32 of his 43 attempts for 40 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to eight different receivers and will try and match his brother's feat from two years ago when Eli Manning led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl title in Peyton's former home stadium.
When Eli and the Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, they did so in Lucas Oil Stadium, where Peyton spent many years with the Indianapolis Colts.
"It is certainly very rewarding when you put a lot of hard work into an offseason, into a regular season, and it pays dividends with a huge win, winning the AFC Championship," Manning said. "Like John (Elway) said, we couldn't have done it without these fans. This team has been through a lot, we've overcome a number of obstacles this year, so it has been very gratifying to be a part of this team. We have kept our nose to the grindstone, we kept persevering, and it felt good to get this win today.
"I've always been an AFC guy, and I was glad to stay in the AFC when I came here to Denver. I am biased towards this conference. What a heck of a day for football, unbelievable weather, playing a great team. Great coach, great quarterback, great players, it was great to get this win."
SEAHAWKS MOUNT COMEBACK
Down, 10-3, at the half, and then, 17-13, after three quarters, the Seahawks used the full force of the 12th man to score the game's final 10 points en route to a 23-17 victory. They generated three turnovers, including two interceptions, on the 49ers' final three possessions for the come-from-behind win.
Late in the game, the 49ers were driving for a potential game-winning touchdown, when Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman deflected a pass intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone.
Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith corralled the interception, and the Seahawks were able to run out the remaining time on the clock to clinch their second-ever trip to the Super Bowl.
"I didn't play good enough to win," San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick said, according to NFL.com. "I turned the ball over three times. I cost us this game.
"I could've put it a little deeper in the corner and gave only Crab a chance."
OHIO HIGH SCHOOL GETS NEW FIELD
The students at Taylor High School in North Bend, Ohio, will have a new surface to play on when they take the field come August, and it comes courtesy of the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints, who change the turf at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after each season, provided the field to the Ohio High School at a nearly 85 percent discount. Nearly $1 million is required to provide a new synthetic turf field, but Taylor was able to purchase the Saints' old one for $146,000, according to MaxPreps.com.