The Denver Broncos held off a late comeback by the San Diego Chargers as Peyton Manning completed a huge pass to Julius Thomas on a 3rd-and-17 to move the chains. Denver moves on to the AFC Championship Game next Sunday against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field.
The Denver Broncos had a good drive going to begin the second half as Peyton Manning completed a 9-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, setting up a Knowshon Moreno 3-yard rush for the first-down. Manning would throw again on first-down, connecting with Demaryius for another first-down. On 3rd-and-1, Manning would roll-out and find Wes Welker for the first as Denver kept marching down the field. On 3rd-and-6, Julius Thomas would jump resulting in a false start, moving Denver back to a 3rd-and-11 attempt. Manning would have Wes Welker on an over-the-top pass where Welker turned to catch it but couldn’t haul it in. Denver would settle for a 45-yard field-goal as Matt Prater has made 23 consecutive kicks from under 50-yards out. Denver would take the 17-0 lead.
On San Diego’s ensuing possession, Phillip Rivers found wide-out Keenan Allen for a 16-yard strike and the first catch from a San Diego receiver. The Broncos nearly had a take-away as Rivers next pass was behind Allen that tipped directly to safety Duke Ihenacho who couldn’t control the ball. Chargers were set up on a 3rd-and-8 as Rivers found Ronnie Brown across the middle for the first but would be called back as Ladarius Green was called for pass-interference on an illegal pick. Chargers were forced to another 3rd-and-18 as Rivers pass went through the hands of Green, forcing a San Diego punt.
Peyton Manning started off Denver’s drive with a quick-strike to wide receiver Eric Decker for a 19-yard gain. Later on in the drive, Denver was set-up with a 3rd-and-1 and running back Knowshon Moreno would get stuffed for a loss of two, setting up a Matt Prater field-goal attempt. Prater’s attempt from 47-yards out was no good, snapping his 23 consecutive makes from under 50-yards out.
Phillip Rivers would drop-back to pass and none of his wide-receivers were open so the quarterback took it himself for a 6-yard rush. San Diego would strike for a big play as Rivers found former second-round pick by the Denver Broncos, Eddie Royal for a 30-yard completion and the first-down. On 3rd-and-4, Rivers found rookie Keenan Allen in the back of the end-zone for a 16-yard touchdown pass to bring Denver’s lead down to 17-7. San Diego’s touchdown drive consisted of just 6-plays for 63-yards in just 3:08.
On the ensuing kick-off attempt, Denver’s kick-returner Trindon Holliday would take a kick 105-yards to the house but would be called back to an illegal block in the back call on Omar Bolden. Denver would face a 3rd-and-7 as Manning looked for Wes Welker but the ball was overthrown. However, there were two penalties on the defensive side of the ball as San Diego was called for holding and pass interference, resulting in an automatic first-down. Manning would find Julius Thomas on a 3rd-and-2 crossing route for 17-yards, setting up the first-down. Knowshon Moreno would have a big gain on the ground as the half back rushed for the first-down along with the first-down, setting Denver up at the ten yard-line. On 2nd-and-Goal, Peyton Manning would hand it off to Knowshon Moreno for the 3-yard touchdown. Denver would take the 24-to-7 lead with 8:12 remaining in the ball game.
Phillip Rivers would start out San Diego’s drive with a quick short-pass to Antonio Gates for a gain of 5-yards. Rivers would test Denver’s cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie twice and he would break up both passes resulting in a 4th-and-5 with the season on the line. On that 4th-and-5, Rivers would throw a deep-pass down-field to Keenan Allen for a 45-yard gain as he beat former Charger Quentin Jammer. San Diego would strike for their second score of the game as Rivers found his favorite target Allen for his second touchdown catch of the game as the Chargers brought the lead within ten, 24-14 with just 5:43 remaining in the game.
On the ensuing kick-off, the San Diego Chargers tried an onside kick attempt that would be recovered by Richard Marshall of the Chargers. Shaun Phillips would get to Rivers once again for his second sack of the game but the Chargers would bounce back. San Diego would strike for two big plays to Keenan Allen for 18-yards and once again as Denver’s secondary was getting exposed. Denver would hold San Diego to a 4th-and-5 field-goal attempt and this time Nick Novak would connect from 30-yards out to bring the Denver lead within one score, 24-17 with 3:53 to play.
San Diego would elect to kick-off instead of the onside kick as they pooch kicked it to Trindon Holliday who then ran out-of-bounds at the 27-yard-line. On their first play, offensive lineman Zane Beadles would jump as Denver would be penalized with a false-start. They would run it with Moreno on the 1st-and-15 and would get tackled for a loss of two. Denver would throw on 2nd-and-17 but his pass to Demaryius Thomas was dropped as they faced a long 3rd-and-17. Manning was facing pressure and found Julius Thomas on a tippy-toe catch to pick up 21-yards for the first-down. Denver would run the ball with Moreno, picking up 3-yards as San Diego used their second time-out with 2:57 remaining. Denver would run it again with Moreno and this time he would pick up just one yard as they faced a 3rd-and-6. Peyton Manning would find Julius Thomas on a big 9-yard catch for the first-down as the Chargers called their final time-out with 2:02 left in the game. 2nd-and-7, Moreno would get the ball and rush for six yards resulting in a 3rd-and-1 with San Diego’s season hanging on by a thread. On 3rd-and-1, Knowshon Moreno would pound it up the middle for the first-down as Denver ended any hopes for a San Diego comeback, winning the game by the final score of 24-17.
The Denver Broncos will advance to next Sunday’s match-up with the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game that begins at 3:00 PM ET, 1:00 PM MT.