In their first ever playoff meeting with the San Diego Chargers, the Denver Broncos took care of business and won 24-17 to head to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2005-’06.
However, they didn’t do it without testing John Fox’s new heart valve.
We can highlight, capitalize, and put the ‘D’ in Denver in bright lights…at least for the first three quarters. The Broncos didn’t give up their first points to the Chargers until the fourth quarter, but they allowed the Chargers to come back and make it a 7-point game late in the game.
In fact, the Chargers had just 79 yards of total offense in the first three quarters. In the final quarter, they put up 180 yards.
It took a couple of huge Julius Thomas conversions on 3rd and 17 (he picked up 21) and 3rd and 6 (pick up of 9 yards) to finally put the game away.
Really, this game could have been 42-0 when all was said and done, but that’s the thing about the playoffs. You can’t count any team completely out of it.
Peyton Manning went 25-for-36 for 230 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in his first playoff win as a Bronco. It was his first red zone interception in 39 touchdowns, but it wasn’t really his fault. The ball bounced off of Eric Decker’s chest and into the hands of Darrell Stuckey right before halftime.
Speaking of Decker, he had a rough one, first being tripped up by that field shark again during a return, which he could have taken in for six. Then, he dropped the ball on the onside kick attempt, which allowed the Chargers to make it a one score game.
Although the ending had some negatives, the Broncos controlled the clock (+10 min TOP) with an effective run game, which helped them tremendously. Knowshon Moreno had 82 yards on 23 carries and Montee Ball averaged 5.2 yards on 10 carries. It was a necessary aspect of the game for the Broncos in windy conditions, particularly after the team put up just 18 rushing yards in their loss to the Bolts in December.
Wes Welker sported a plus-size helmet in his first game back after suffering two concussions in 22 days, and he added 38 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Even though the Broncos didn’t force any turnovers, they sacked Philip Rivers four times (Shaun Phillips had two) and limited him to 217 yards. It was a huge loss for the Chargers to be playing with an injured Ryan Mathews. Mathews only carried the ball five times for 26 yards before he was pulled due to the injury.
There’s no doubt about it. The Broncos can’t play that way next week against the New England Patriots. The Patriots are too good and will take advantage of turnovers and gaps in the secondary.
Exactly one year after the Broncos lost to the Ravens in the playoffs and exactly one month after they lost to the Chargers, this victory is sweet as sugar. They can’t hold the taste for too long, however.
The Patriots are up next.
May John Fox be able to fist pump in front of Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick next week along the sideline to celebrate the fact that the team can fire up their jet engine and head east for the big one.