$0.02: Broncos won because they rattled New England

DEVON O'NEILsummit daily news
Devon O'Neil

Hard to believe the Broncos could go from playoff-doubted to Super Bowl favorite in 24 hours. But hey, it was hard to believe the Earth was round for a long time, too.What Denver did Saturday night was impressive, even if the feats came in the deafening comfort of Invesco Field. The Broncos handed Tom Brady his first postseason loss since high school; they won the franchise’s first playoff game since John Elway retired; they rattled the unrattleable Patriots. Yes, folks have said the Patriots gave Denver the game, that the Broncos didn’t win it as much as New England lost it. Brady missed two open touchdowns, the naysayers opine; Adam Vinatieri – the guy who doesn’t miss when it counts – did just that on a field goal; and Troy Brown, the team’s do-everything soul, dropped a punt after signaling for a fair catch.

New England’s players were nervous. When Brady overthrew his receiver on what would’ve been a sure touchdown, it appeared that he tried to aim his throw. Anyone who has ever felt the jitters mid-heave knows what this does to accuracy. And in Brown’s case, he muffed that punt because the pressure to catch it – not catch it and run with it, just catch it – got to him. Moments before Champ Bailey did what he does – this time, grab a tide-turning interception on a throw that Brady forced, and return it 100 yards to set up the Broncos’ second touchdown – someone in the room said, “This is a BIG play for both these teams’ seasons.”As it turned out, it was everything and more. Denver moved on because of that play. Now, Denver will host the AFC Championship Game because of that play. Pittsburgh is a tough, smash-your-teeth football team, one that is playing its best ball at precisely the right time. And how convenient for the fans, so are the Broncos.

It’s been a tail-tucking postseason for yours truly when it comes to picking winners. Last week’s 1-3 record leaves the overall mark – including one unforgettable Rose Bowl – at a shaved poodle-ugly 3-6.That said, I’ll take the Broncos at home this week. Nothing fancy, just a factory worker’s 20-16 grind-you-down game. …As for the Super Bowl’s other participant, Carolina seems to be too much defense and just enough offense to upset top-seeded Seattle. These Panthers have the fire and toughness of an upper-echelon AFC team. Third straight road win for Steve Smith et al., 28-21. …Mark these words: The next time an NFL team clinches home-field advantage while it is still undefeated, we’ll see no resting of players. There will be talk, but only because there is talk about everything in this era. Indy went 1-3 after clinching home field. Rhythm counts. …

Bode on the cover: This week alone, the list includes Time, Newsweek and Outside. Somewhere, skiing’s “any press is good press” believers are smiling. …In parting, this is the truth. The Dominican roster for next spring’s World Baseball Classic includes Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, Bartolo Colon, Alfonso Soriano, Adrian Beltre and Aramis Ramirez.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at

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