(Reuters) - Moments after his Denver Broncos clinched a playoff berth on Monday with a 20-17 overtime victory at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said he will stay with Brock Osweiler as his starter in next week’s final.
There was speculation that if veteran Peyton Manning was healthy he could return for next week’s finale at home against the San Diego Chargers if Osweiler failed to beat the Bengals.
But Osweiler rallied the Broncos to the win amid the storm caused by a television report which accused Manning of human growth hormone (HGH) use in 2011 following neck surgery.
”Nothing has changed with Brock,“ Kubiak said. ”If something would change with Brock, the players would know first and you all (reporters) would know second.
“Our football team is moving forward and our mindset goes to San Diego.”
A Denver win over the Chargers and a loss from the New England Patriots on Sunday would give the Broncos the number one seed in the American Football Conference.
Manning has missed the last six games with a foot injury and he watched from the sidelines on Monday, but was one of the first Broncos to jump for joy alongside Osweiler after the win.
Since late Saturday evening, he has strenuously denied the Al-Jazeera investigative documentary ‘The dark side: The secret world of sports doping,’ that linked Manning and other well-known players from the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) with performance enhancing drugs.
“Most of all this isn’t about Peyton, this isn’t about myself,” Osweiler said. “Tonight was about this football team and what this football team went out there and did was truly special.”
Led by quarterback AJ McCarron, the Bengals jumped to a 14-0 lead and enjoyed a 14-3 advantage at halftime. But the Broncos rebounded to take a 17-14 lead, only to have the game tied on a fourth-quarter field goal.
The Broncos, however, had a chance to win the game in regulation, but kicker Brandon McManus shanked his 45-yard field goal attempt.
In overtime, Osweiler led his team down the field to cash in with a 37-yard field goal from McManus.
In the Bengals’ turn with the ball, Broncos defender DeMarcus Ware beat McCarron to a fumbled snap to clinch the victory.
Reporting by Tim Wharnsby; editing by Sudipto Ganguly