For four straight quarters on Sunday, New England's Tom Brady spent life on the run.
Brady was trying to evade Denver's trio of pass-rushing whirlwinds -- Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller -- who dominated the Patriots all afternoon in a 20-18 win over New England in the AFC Championship Game.
Miller was otherworldly, slashing past Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon for a gameplan-crushing 2.5 sacks, which set a single-game playoff record for the Super Bowl-bound Broncos. Miller also set up Denver's second touchdown with an athletic interception of Brady, who threw for a pedestrian 5.5 yards per toss against a frenetic Broncos secondary that noticed Brady was feeling the heat:
In a punishing defeat, Brady absorbed a whopping 19 hits, the most on a quarterback in a single game since 2006, when Cleveland's Charlie Frye was hit 20 times by the Ravens.
With Miller rampaging off the edge, Wolfe dominated inside, piling up six solo tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and three additional hits on Brady. Ware was kept at bay early, but finished with half a takedown and seven hits on the quarterback for a Broncos club that won its 11th game of the year by seven points or fewer.
These tight wins have plenty to do with a spotty Denver offense that couldn't seal the deal in the second half, but that only magnifies the accomplishments of a Broncos defense that forced New England into six punts, two failed fourth-down conversions and a pair of turnovers.
Denver never flinched, digging in from the first whistle to shred a wanting New England O-line that wasn't up to the challenge, leaving Brady with plenty of ugly game tape to ponder in the lonely months to come.