DENVER — Peyton Manning understood the moment. The Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots and if teammates wanted to lay the credit at his feet, he would accept it and be grateful.
“You have to try to keep a level head after a win, after a loss. Not get too high or too low,” said Manning after the game. “Playing quarterback is what I was focused on today. Nothing more than that. I’m glad my teammates are happy for me. I’m happy for them.”
Many of the Manning clan were at the AFC title game, including Cooper, his oldest brother. Cooper did give Peyton some advice: “‘Hey, you’ve come this far. Go ahead and pretend you’re a 10-year-old playing in the front yard.’ That’s what it looked like (today).”
WES WELKER admitted his block of Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib was rough. “I was trying to get him to go over the top and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath. We just kind of collided. It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that.”
Talib left the game after the block and didn’t return. He walked off the limp but was said to have a leg injury. His absence was a factor in the game.
Welker also talked to the team before the game.
“I have a player speak every Saturday night,” said Broncos Coach John Fox. “I figured out in my time doing this, they get sick of listening to me talk. Wes did a tremendous job. It is personal, so I’m not going to go into exacts. He answered the bell pretty well.
“I’m still wondering how that got out.”
SHAUN PHILLIPS, the Broncos defensive end, admitted his unit played with a chip on their shoulders.
The defense took criticism after last year’s double-overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional game. Manning had put the Broncos in the lead, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco led his offense back against the defense.
“People were doubting us and calling us an average defense at best. I spread it across the locker room and guys started playing better and stepping up.”
The Broncos defense had also heard too much talk that Sunday’s game was going to be a high-scoring shootout between Manning and Tom Brady. That turned into a motivational tool as well.
THE ANNOUNCED attendance for Sunday’s game was 77,110 fans, which was the second-largest crowd in Broncos team history. No one counted how many of those 77,110 fans wore orange, but it seemed like 90 percent. The game-time temperature of 63 degrees was the second warmest at kickoff for a home playoff game in franchise history.
Sunday’s win gives Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen his sixth Super Bowl appearance, tying him with Patriots owner Bob Kraft. That’s the most among NFL owners. Edward DeBartolo Jr. (former 49ers owner), Clint Murchison Jr. (former Cowboys owner) and Joe Robbie (former Dolphins owner) all have five.
PEYTON MANNING’S foundation for at-risk youth will receive a $24,800 donation for all the times he shouted “Omaha” during the AFC championship game Sunday.
The donations were organized by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Eight companies combined to donate $800 for every time Manning yelled “Omaha” Sunday.
Chamber officials say Manning yelled about Nebraska’s largest city 31 times.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.