Denver Broncos outlast Chargers, 24-17, will host Patriots in AFC Championship game
For just the fifth time in 13 playoff appearances, Peyton Manning has advanced past his first game of the post-season.
The Chargers had pulled within seven points late in the fourth and needed to stop Denver to get the ball back with a chance to tie it. However, Manning uncharacteristically didn't throw an interception. Instead, he connected with Julius Thomas twice on third down at the end of the fourth to eventually seal the 24-17 win Sunday night at Mile High Stadium.
Manning's offense mostly lived up to its end of the bargain as the future hall of fame quarterback threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Broncos actually used their run game to dominate the time of possession 35:27 to 24:33 and run for 133 total yards.
The Broncos seemed to be trying to give this game away at points. Manning threw an interception that was dropped, another in the endzone that wasn't, and Julius Thomas put one on the ground early.
Still, a ferocious Denver defense (or terrible Chargers offense depending on how you look at it) held San Diego scoreless through the first three quarters.
The Chargers rallied in the fourth, scoring all of their 17 points in that final frame, including an onside kick recovery.
Still despite that, Philip Rivers did not put up enough of a good fight for most of the game. He ended up throwing for 217 yards and 2 TDs.
This means that the New England Patriots, fresh off a win over the Indianapolis Colts, will now travel to Denver for the AFC Championship game. The last time there was a Brady-Manning showdown in the AFC Championship was all the way back in 2006, a Colts comeback victory that eventually led to Manning's first and only Super Bowl ring over the Chicago Bears.
The four previous times Manning advanced beyond his first playoff game have had mixed results.
The first time he did so was in the 2003 season, eventually losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game 24-14. The second time was the following year in the 2004 season. Manning beat the Broncos in the wild card round but again lost to the Patriots in the divisional round 20-3. The third time was two years later when, as mentioned before, Manning got past New England and won the Super Bowl. The last time was in 2009, an eventual Super Bowl loss to the New Orleans Saints 31-17.
The Patriots met Denver earlier this season, a second half comeback win in overtime. The Patriots are 3-0 against Manning since 2010.