Pats-Broncos draws 2nd-largest AFC championship TV audience

Skip on Pats' loss: Made me sick, but not surprising (2:22)

Skip Bayless explain why he was not shocked to see the Broncos defeat the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and why coach Bill Belichick deserves the blame for the loss. (2:22)

NEW YORK -- The AFC championship game has drawn its second-largest television audience on record.

The Denver Broncos' down-to-the-wire win over the New England Patriots, in what could be the last meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, averaged 53.3 million viewers Sunday on CBS. On Monday, the network that viewership trails only the 54.9 million for the 2011 Steelers-Jets matchup, which was played in a later time slot. CBS' records go back to 1978.

With much of the East Coast digging out of a blizzard, Sunday was the perfect day to draw a big audience.

In the NFC matchup, the Panthers and Cardinals didn't have the history of the Broncos and Patriots, and the outcome was a rout, which led to the unusual occurrence of the earlier game getting more viewers than the later one. Carolina's victory averaged 45.7 million viewers, which was up from the 42.1 million for New England's blowout of Indianapolis in the late slot a year ago.