LOS ANGELES • Age-defying Peyton Manning defeated Tom Brady in the National Football League's epic quarterback rivalry on Sunday, to send the Denver Broncos into Super Bowl 50 and a championship showdown against the Carolina Panthers.
Manning threw for two first-half touchdowns and Denver's ferocious defence withstood a New England rally in the dying seconds for a 20-18 triumph over the visiting Patriots in the American Football Conference final.
Manning will become the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history at age 39 when the Broncos face the Panthers in two weeks in Super Bowl 50 at the San Francisco 49ers' stadium in California.
"This is a sweet day, a sweet victory. To me this victory is a great example of what this season has been like," he said. "It hasn't been easy, been a lot of different people stepping up at different times... but everybody did their part and it truly was a team win."
He will try to match his brother Eli with a second NFL crown as the Broncos seek their first Super Bowl win since 1999.
Denver match Pittsburgh, Dallas and New England with an eighth Super Bowl appearance but have only gone 2-5 before. Carolina lost to New England in 2004 in their only prior Super Bowl appearance.
The Patriots were undone by a missed extra-point conversion kick from Stephen Gostkowski early in the game, forcing New England to attempt a two-point conversion to equalise after Brady threw a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski with 17 seconds remaining to create the final margin.
Denver's defence denied New England and the Broncos recovered an onside kick attempt to seal the victory.
"We could never play on our terms," said Brady.
"It was an uphill battle all day. It was just tough for us to get into a rhythm."
Manning and Brady have now faced off 17 times, with Brady leading their head-to-head 11-6.
Manning choked back emotion before he greeted Brady and long-time nemesis New England coach Bill Belichick for lengthy post-game handshakes.
"I can't get away from either of those guys. It's been a special rivalry over the course of my career against the Patriots," said Manning.
In Carolina, Cam Newton ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more to spark the Panthers to a 49-15 win over the Arizona Cardinals, setting a scoring record for the National Football Conference final.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS