Friday, June 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Manning, Broncos deny Patriots in AFC title game

DENVER — When Peyton Manning was watching games from the locker room a few months ago, none of this seemed possible.

Manning back on the field, playing the role of the most decorated game manager in history.

Manning, 39, churning around right end for a 12-yard run and a first down.

Manning back in the Super Bowl.

The strangest season of No. 18's Hall of Fame-ready career will play itself out all the way to the last game. Manning and the Broncos are heading to the Super Bowl, thanks to his efficient offense and a big-play defense that saved Sunday's 20-18 victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.

Denver faces NFC champion Carolina on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.

"It's been a unique season," Manning said. "And this game today was a unique football game."

Manning's third-quarter scramble for a first down — "The run," he called it, using air quotes — might be the most celebrated scramble by a Broncos quarterback since John Elway helicoptered in the Super Bowl, 18 years ago. It was certainly the most unexpected.

"He's going to do what he has to do to win," coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's one of the greatest competitors ever in this league."

That play helped flip the field early in the second half for the Broncos (14-4). Then, defense saved the day.

Manning's fourth trip to the Super Bowl wasn't wrapped up until cornerback Bradley Roby picked off Brady's pass on a 2-point attempt that would have tied it with 12 seconds left.

Brady hit a double-covered Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone on fourth down from the 4 to set up the potential tie. The Patriots had to go for two because Stephen Gostkowski pushed an extra point to the right in the first quarter — his first miss in 524 tries.

"All day, these guys put their bodies and lives on the line, and for me to come out here and miss a kick, it's a nightmare scenario," Gostkowski said.

That left it to one play, and former Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib stepped in front of Brady's pass and deflected it skyward. Roby, who forced the game-changing fumble in last week's victory over Pittsburgh, made the pick. The Broncos recovered the onside kick.

"It's not just one individual's fault," Gronkowski said. "You can't put it on the hands of Steph, there's no way."

Manning improved to 6-11 in his vaunted series against Brady, but 3-1 with the AFC title on the line. Manning surpasses Elway as the oldest quarterback to take his team to the Super Bowl — Elway, now the Broncos' team president, was 38 when Denver won its second Super Bowl in a row in the 1998 season.

New England (13-5) won't get a chance to go back-to-back and win a fifth Lombardi Trophy.

The Patriots lost their last two regular-season games to squander the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage, which Denver grabbed instead. In a game that came down to one play, that might have mattered. Another possible factor: Coach Bill Belichick's decision to pass up short field-goal tries twice in the fourth quarter while trailing by eight.

"Because of the scoring situation in the game," he said when asked about those decisions.

Denver's defense, which gave up the fewest yards in the NFL this season, was responsible for New England's failure, too.

Linebacker Von Miller had 21/2 sacks and an interception as the Broncos harassed Brady all day. He finished 27-for-56 for 310 yards and two picks — for a passer rating of 56.4.

After giving it up twice on downs inside the Denver 20 late in the fourth quarter, Brady hit a double-covered Gronkowski for 40 yards to keep a desperation drive going on fourth and 10.

As for Manning, his 17-for-32 performance was not vintage Manning, but he hit tight end Owen Daniels for both of Denver's touchdowns.

"I've really tried to take it one week at a time all season long, through the injuries and all the things that have gone on," Manning said. "I've stayed in the moment. Stayed patient. That's served me well."

     
Comments
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three games without pay to start the regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expect...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

TAMPA — The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start this season likely means the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for the first three games of the regular season.Fitzpatrick took over as the starter for th...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.Whatever.Just get rid of him.Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.He already will miss the first three...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

TAMPA — The Bucs will open the upcoming season without the face of their franchise, as quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended three games by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.Winston, 24, was accused of groping a ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Published: 06/21/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: When will we know about possible Jameis Winston suspension?

Rick Stroud talks about when we will know about a possible Jameis Winston suspension and why DeSean Jackson hasn't been more productive with the Bucs on today's podcast.Plus, who might the Rays trade next? Will the Lightning make any b...
Published: 06/21/18
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Published: 06/20/18
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Published: 06/19/18
Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Bucs defensive end Will Gholston says ‘no excuse’ for disappointing 2017 season

Will Gholston is painfully honest about a 2017 season that wasn't anything close to what he wanted it to be. Ask him about last year, and there are no parentheses in his world to soften what he remembers here."I just played (crappy), completely. That...
Published: 06/18/18
Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

Ex-Bucs WR Lawrence Dawsey worked with team during OTAs

The Bucs had four extra coaches during organized team activities last month as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, including former Tampa Bay receiver Lawrence Dawsey.Dawsey, 50, played for the Bucs from 1991-95, finishing his time ...
Published: 06/18/18