Road to Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos


Legendary quarterback Peyton Manning could be set for his NFL swansong when Denver Broncos take on Carolina Panthers on Sunday, but his route to Super Bowl 50 was not all plain sailing.

At 39 it remains to be seen if Manning will continue next season, and a second career Super Bowl ring is likely to increase speculation of an NFL farewell.

Manning's starting berth at the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara was not always a guarantee, though, after he struggled with injuries and form during the regular season.

But Manning and the Broncos, on the back of one of the league's best defences, earned a date with the 17-1 Panthers. Here we take a look at their road to California.


Broncos turn to Kubiak

It could be argued that Denver's road to an eighth Super Bowl appearance stretches back over 12 months to the appointment of head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak acted as back-up quarterback to Broncos legend John Elway during his playing career and was the team's offensive coordinator from 1995-2005.

Roby's late show downs the Chiefs 

The season may have been in its infancy, but a 31-24 victory over Kansas City Chiefs in week two proved crucial. Bradley Roby recovered a Jamaal Charles fumble to return a 21-yard touchdown with just 27 seconds on the clock. The Chiefs went on to finish second behind the Broncos in the AFC West.

Unbeaten start halted by Colts as Manning loses on Indianapolis return 

Manning returned to the Indianapolis Colts, with whom he won the Super Bowl in 2007, in week nine and the Broncos were unbeaten at 7-0. However, four of their previous five wins had been by seven points or fewer and they came unstuck in a 27-24 defeat. Even more galling for Manning was the fact he fell three yards short of becoming the NFL's career passing leader.

Manning benched during Chiefs nightmare

Manning broke the record just a week later in a return contest against the Chiefs, but that is as good as it got in a day to forget for the future Hall of Famer. Manning, who was contending with foot and rib injuries, was benched in the third quarter after one of his worst outings in Denver colours. He completed just five of 20 passes for 35 yards and was intercepted four times.

Osweiler steps up against the Bears

Manning's dip in form presented an opportunity to Brock Osweiler, and the back-up quarterback made good on his chance as the Broncos snapped their losing run in a 17-15 win over the Chicago Bears in week 11. The 25-year-old looked accomplished in his debut start, throwing for two touchdowns and completing 20 out of 27 passes.

Broncos halt 10-0 Patriots in week 12

Osweiler continued to deputise at quarterback and the Broncos dealt a psychological blow in a 30-24 overtime victory against New England to halt the Patriots' unbeaten 10-0 record. The quarterback showed good poise against Bill Belichick's side and picked out C.J. Anderson to run a 48-yard touchdown for the victory.

Manning returns as Broncos seal AFC West 

The defining moment of the Broncos' season arguably came in their final regular-season encounter versus the San Diego Chargers in week 17. The top seed in the AFC was in jeopardy following a fifth turnover, prompting Kubiak to turn to Manning in the third quarter. It was his first appearance since being benched in week 10, but Manning eased the tension with a fine showing as the Broncos ran out 27-20 victors. The win ensured they finished top of the AFC West, sealing a first-round bye in the play-offs and home-field advantage.

Comeback win ends Pittsburgh hopes

Manning was retained as starting quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round game, but Denver were staring down the barrel having trailed 10-6 at half-time and 13-12 by the end of the third quarter. However, a Fitzgerald Toussaint fumble was recovered by Denver and the same play turned into a one-yard touchdown for Anderson. A field goal with 53 seconds on the clock then took the match away from the Steelers as Denver ran out 23-16 victors.

Manning beats rival Brady to secure Super Bowl berth

The AFC Conference Championship game not only pitted the top two seeds against one another in the Broncos and the Patriots, it also featured the latest instalment of the Manning-Tom Brady rivalry. And it was the Manning-led Broncos who came out on top in a 20-18 classic. Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, was battered by one the best defences in the league and was hit 20 times. Drama ensued, though, as Brady picked out Rob Gronkowski in the closing stages and a two-point attempt would have forced overtime. However, Roby picked off Brady's pass and the Broncos could start making travel plans for California.