For the first time in postseason franchise history, the Denver Broncos did not punt against the San Diego Chargers in their 24-17 win.
The Broncos went an astounding 9-for-13 on third down. This comes after the team went 3-for-8 on third down against the Chargers in November, and 2-for-9 in their December loss.
“We stressed all week being productive on first and second down,” Peyton Manning said following the game. “We did not do that last time we played San Diego and got into some third downs and didn’t convert those. We were good on third down because we were good on first and second down. That was the point of emphasis all week, and we carried that from practice field to the playing field.”
No third down conversions were as important as the ones on the Broncos’ final drive.
On 3rd-and-17, and with the Chargers one touchdown away from tying the game, Manning found Julius Thomas for the 21-yard gain.
“Third-and-17, you know you’re going to have to hold the ball a little bit longer just to give guys a chance to get down the field,” Manning said. “It was the perfect call against the perfect coverage, which you may get one or two of those a game.”
Then on 3rd-and-6, Manning hit Thomas again for a 9-yard gain.
Finally, on 3rd-and-1, Knowshon Moreno ended it and picked up five yards so the Broncos could officially run out the clock.
Not only was this the first time in Broncos history that the team didn’t have to punt in a playoff game, but it was just the eighth time in NFL history that such an occurrence has happened. Three of those games have come with Manning under center.