Broncos survive Chargers rally to reach AFC Championship game

Sun Jan 12, 2014 9:09pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - The Denver Broncos survived a fourth-quarter fightback by the San Diego Chargers to claim a 24-17 win on Sunday and advance to the AFC Championship game for the first time in eight years.

The victory sets up a tantalizing showdown between two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks next Sunday when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots visit the Mile High city to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.

"It's Broncos verses the Patriots, certainly Tom and I have played a lot but when you get to the AFC championship it's about two good teams that did a lot to get there," said Manning. "They're a great team, they had a big win last night so we are going to enjoy this one tonight and start to work on them tomorrow and it ought to be a heck of a game."

Manning, who passed for a record 55 touchdowns during a record-smashing regular season, was more clinical than spectacular on a blustery, cool day in Colorado.

He completed 25 passes for a modest 230 yards, including short touchdown strikes to Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker in the first half.

The red-hot Chargers arrived in Denver riding the momentum from a five-game winning streak and had looked poised to keep their season alive with a fourth quarter rally that cut Denver's 17-point advantage to seven.

But with just under four minutes to play, Manning would not give Philip Rivers and the Chargers another chance, running out the clock with ball control offense to clinch the victory.

"All-in-all I think our defense played one of its better games," said Broncos head coach John Fox. "It's about doing your job, doing it under pressure but we're going to have to play a lot better going forward."

The Broncos' high-octane offense was firing on all cylinders right from the their first possession, Manning engineering Denver's longest scoring drive of the season marching his team 86 yards capped by two-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.   Continued...

 
Jan 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) celebrates with receiver Eric Decker (87) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports