Broncos take 13-3 lead into halftime

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The Patriots defense has given up a lot of yards through the first two quarters of the AFC Championship Game, but the Broncos have only turned them into 13 points.

Peyton Manning has thrown for 214 yards and hit all six of his passes on a drive just before halftime that got off to a promising start with two Demaryius Thomas catches that totaled 53 yards, but the Patriots defense tightened near the red zone and the Broncos had to settle for a 13-3 halftime lead. The Broncos have done just about everything right offensively, including five third down conversions, but the lack of touchdowns could come back to haunt them.

The Broncos have rolled up 270 yards overall to just 119 for the Patriots, which pretty much tells the story of how this first half has gone for the two offenses. The Patriots had a pair of drives into Denver territory, but had to punt after a penalty on the first and settled for a field goal of their own after a Robert Ayers sack stymied their second trip onto the Broncos’ side of the field.

Tom Brady was 9-of-15 for 114 yards in the first half and the running game hasn’t been nearly as effective as it was against the Colts last week. That speaks well of the job being done by defensive tackles Terrance Knighton and Sylvester Williams, while Brady’s going to need to be more accurate in the second half after missing some open receivers through the first 30 minutes.

The Patriots may also need to find a way to slow Thomas without cornerback Aqib Talib available. He’s still being called questionable to return with a rib injury, but went back to the locker room after a brief return to the sideline in the second quarter. The Broncos exploited his absence on the way to their final 10 points of the half and more of the same would make it hard for the Patriots to find the spark they need to pull off a second comeback against the Broncos this season.