The Broncos opened the scoring on their second possession of the game, with Matt Prater's 27-yard field goal. Manning had the Broncos offense moving quickly and throwing a variety of formations at the young Patriots defense. The Pats defense came through with a red-zone stop after the Broncos hit some big plays to get them into scoring range.
Denver would get the first touchdown of the game on their next possession with an impressive 93-yard drive that Manning finished off with a nice play-action pass to Jacob Tamme from just a yard out. The Patriots lost Aqib Talib to injury on the drive and the Broncos took advantage immediately.
The Patriots would respond on their next drive, with Stephen Gostkowski nailing a 47-yard field goal to get the Pats on the board and cut the Broncos lead to seven.
The Broncos would respond with an impressive drive just before the half that included two big plays by Demaryius Thomas. They'd cap it with a 35-yard field goal to extend their lead to 13-3 just before the half.
Manning would pick up where he left off at the onset of the third quarter, with a touchdown drive that ate up just over seven minutes. Manning found Thomas for the touchdown to finish it off and give the Broncos a commanding 20-3 lead.
The Patriots would scratch out a 13-play, 41-yard drive on their first possession of the half, but were forced to go for it on 4th-and-2. Tom Brady was sacked as Logan Mankins was beat by Terrence Knighton.
The Patriots defense would hold strong in the red zone once again on the ensuing drive, holding the Broncos to a field goal, but that upped the lead to 23-3 in the fourth quarter.
New England's offense would come to life on the next drive, with Brady finding Julian Edelman for a seven-yard touchdown with just under ten minutes left to play. That cut the lead to 23-10.
But Denver would pick up another field goal on their next drive, their sixth consecutive scoring drive since a first possession punt. Manning was just about flawless on the day, going 32-of-43 for 400 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots would add another late touchdown, with Brady taking it himself, but a failed two-point conversion attempt signaled the end for New England.
The Broncos recovered an onside kick to preserve a 26-16 win and move on to the Super Bowl in New Jersey.