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The Patriots and the Broncos will battle it out to see who will go to the Super Bowl. Off the field, they are engaging in battles of a different kind. Rachel Holt (@ItsRachelHolt) takes a look at some of the trash talk taking place between the two teams, including a raunchy tweet from none other than Rob Gronkowski.
AFC Championship: New England Patriots (13-4) at Denver Broncos (13-4)
The Patriots and Broncos meet in the NFL postseason for the fifth time, with Denver holding a 3-1 all-time advantage, including the teams' most recent postseason meeting in the AFC Championship Game during the 2013 season. The teams met earlier this season in Week 12, as Denver overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to earn a 30-24 overtime victory and hand New England its first loss of the season.
The Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, advanced to their fifth consecutive AFC Championship Game with a 27-20 win over Kansas City last week at Gillette Stadium. New England joins the 1973-77 Oakland Raiders as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to reach five Conference Championship Games in a row.
"It's pretty special to get back to another AFC Championship Game," says Patriots Pro Bowl quarterback TOM BRADY, who will play in his 10th career Conference Championship Game, the most by any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. "It's pretty cool. It's hard to do. You've got to grind throughout the entire year."
In the Patriots' Divisional Playoff victory against Kansas City, Brady threw two touchdown passes to Pro Bowl tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI. Gronkowski has eight career postseason touchdown receptions, the most by a tight end in NFL history. Brady, who threw for 302 yards last week, has 7,647 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes in his postseason career, both the most in league history. Brady has 22 career postseason wins, the most in NFL history.
New England head coach BILL BELICHICK, who has an NFL record 23 playoff victories, will coach in his 10th Conference Championship Game, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer TOM LANDRY for the most in the Super Bowl era. The Patriots are 6-3 in AFC Championship Games under Belichick.
"It's great to move on to the AFC Championship Game," says Belichick. "It's always an honor to be part of that game. We're excited about that."
The Broncos advanced to their 10th AFC Championship Game with a 23-16 win over Pittsburgh last week at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver enters the game with a 7-2 all-time record in AFC Championship Games, including a 5-1 mark at home. That record includes a 26-16 victory over New England in the Broncos' most recent AFC Championship Game appearance, when Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING passed for 400 yards with two touchdowns to earn a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Manning ranks second in playoff history in passing yards (7,022), completions (619) & attempts (972), trailing only Brady (711 of 1,127 for 7,647 yards) in all three categories. Manning (38) ranks fourth all-time in postseason touchdown passes.
In his first year as head coach of the Broncos, head coach GARY KUBIAK guided the team to a 12-4 mark and the conference's top seed. This week, Kubiak will attempt to become the first head coach to earn a Super Bowl berth in his first season with a team since JIM CALDWELL accomplished the feat with Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in 2009.
"There hasn't been one way that we've won," says Kubiak. "We've kind of won all kinds of different ways. We've had a lot of different players contribute to our success when we've been successful."
The game will mark the 17th meeting in the historic rivalry between Manning and Brady. The two quarterbacks have represented the AFC in nine of the past 14 Super Bowls, earning Super Bowl MVP honors in four of those contests.
"I wouldn't want it any other way," says Pro Bowl linebacker VON MILLER about facing the Patriots. "They're one of the best teams in the AFC. Let's go out and play and see who wants to go to the Super Bowl. "