The smile on Champ Bailey’s face said it all.
A grin as wide as his Hall of Fame career has been long.
And now, thanks to a little Peyton Manning pixie dust (via the legend John Elway), Bailey is going to play in his first Super Bowl and biggest game of his career.
Elway, for his part, did say he was going to restore greatness to the Broncos.
They will face the Seattle Seahawks, who defeated the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the NFC title game, and like Denver, were picked throughout the year to make it to the Meadowlands.
It's the Broncos' seventh conference championship, and their first in fifteen years.
Inactives: Broncos - Joel Dreessen, Ronnie Hillman, Marquice Cole, Vinston Painter, Chris Kuper, Sione Fua, Zac Dysert
Patriots - Kenbrell Thompkins, Steve Beauharnais, Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Green, Chris Barker, D.J. Williams, Jake Bequette
While the 24-17 final score won't indicate it, this win was as good as a blowout.
The Chargers couldn't score until the fourth quarter; when they did, it took some pretty fluky stuff to get them into the game. Some garbage zone, blown coverages, and an onside kick later, the game narrowed.
But let's face it, the Chargers came into the game wanting to attack the edges on first and second down. The signing of Jeremy Mincey, which may turn out to be one of the best signings of the year, made this team stronger outside the tackles. And while you may not believe it, Nate Irving and Shaun Phillips both set the edge as well as Von Miller could have.
All week long, the focus was on San Diego’s running game and propensity to dominate time of possession.
The Chargers had held the ball for 38:03 of the teams’ first meeting in Week 10, and for 38:49 in the rematch five weeks later.
The Broncos will host the Patriots next Sunday at 3pm ET in the AFC Championship, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl 48 in New Jersey against either Seattle or San Francisco.
Inactives: Broncos - Derek Wolfe, Tony Carter, Joel Dreessen, Zac Dysert, Sione Fua, Ronnie Hillman, Chris Kuper
Chargers - Jeromey Clary, Marcus Cromartie, Lavelle Hawkins, Sean Lissemore, Brad Sorenson, Brandon Taylor, Kenny Wiggins
It's been said many times that quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are great because they can see things in the defense that others can't; that they have some innate ability that's just missing in quarterbacks like Tony Romo or Andy Dalton.
Of course, much of that is true. Manning can spot a leveraged linebacker a mile away, mostly because linebackers are stupid and often give away their intentions due to their aggressive nature. But that's beside the point, really. Each week, we have analysts break down the intricacies of Cover 1 vs. Cover 2, man-press coverage vs. zone, and everything in between.
But sometimes it's simpler than you think. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the weakest kid on the playground.
After a week of waiting, the Broncos finally know who they'll be facing in the playoffs.
The good news? The Broncos ended up getting the weakest team in the playoffs, the San Diego Chargers. The Pats can have Andrew Luck--naked or otherwise...
The bad? There is no bad news, my friends. The Chargers are gonna get creamed.
Wait, you might say. Shouldn't we be at least a little worried? The Chargers just beat the Bengals, in Cincinnati, after all.
After San Diego's thorough 27-10 victory at Cincinnati, the Chargers will travel to Denver to face the top-seeded Broncos at 4:40pm ET next Sunday.
Most points in a season? Check.
Most passing yards in a season? Check.
Best team in football? We'll see.
It's playoff time. Everyone goes bare chested and bare knuckles. And we all know what happened to the Broncos last year in the same set of circumstances.
The good news is that last year means not one damn thing; the Broncos are peaking at the exact right time.
Peyton Manning also isn't completely bare this time around. He's had a whole season to get used to the the glove.