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

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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 and averaged 53.3 million viewers Sunday on CBS. The network said Monday that 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 from a blizzard, it was the perfect day to draw a big audience.

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

PHOTO: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning watches the AFC championship trophy presentation following the NFL football AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning watches the AFC championship trophy presentation following the NFL football AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18 to advance to the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

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