Monday, January 13, 2014
Denver defeat San Diego 24-17 and will now face the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game.
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos calls a play against the San Diego Chargers during the AFC Divisional Playoff at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. Photograph: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The Denver Broncos held off a late rally by the San Diego Chargers to reach the AFC Championship game and set up another Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady battle.
The Broncos eventually won 24-17 after leading 17-0 going into the final quarter before the Chargers finally woke up. Until the final quarter San Diego had looked lost in the windy conditions at Mile High, conceding repeated neutral-zone infractions and failing to show any adventure on offense.
The victory for Manning's Broncos sets up a tantalizing showdown next Sunday when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots visit Denver with a place in the Super Bowl on the line.
Manning, who passed for a record 55 touchdowns during a record-breaking regular season, was more clinical than spectacular on a blustery and cold day in Colorado. The QB completed 25 passes for a modest 230 yards, including two short touchdown strikes to Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas in the first half.
The red-hot Chargers arrived in Denver riding the momentum from a five-game winning streak but stumbled until a fourth quarter rally that cut Denver's 17-point advantage to seven with six minutes to play.
But Manning would not give the Chargers another chance, running out the clock with ball control offense to clinch the victory.
Manning will now face Brady and the Patriots again after a series of epic playoff encounters between the franchise quarterbacks when Peyton played for the Indianapolis Colts. The QBs have faced each other three times in the playoffs and each time the winner has gone on to win the Super Bowl.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers completed 18-of-27 passes for two touchdowns and 217 yards, but until the final quarter the Chargers lacked ambition in the windy conditions against a solid Denver defense.
Denver Broncos 24-17 San Diego Chargers - as it happened