NFL Playoffs: Denver 24 San Diego 17 — The Denver Broncos held on against a 4th quarter rally by the San Diego Chargers for a 24-17 divisional playoff win on Sunday that allowed them to advance to the AFC title game next Sunday against the New England Patriots.
The San Diego offence was inexplicably a no-show for the first three quarters as Denver built a seemingly commanding 17-0 lead.
In the 4th quarter, however, the Chargers finally came to life and nearly mounted a stunning comeback that was eerily similar to the Broncos’ heartbreaking late-game collapse last year to the Baltimore Ravens in the another divisional round game of the playoffs.
After quarterback Philip Rivers’ second 4th quarter touchdown pass cut the Denver lead to 24-14, the Chargers recovered on onside kick and proceeded to drive deep into Bronco territory. The drive stalled on the 13-yard line, and with 3:53 left, San Diego elected to kick a field goal, needing a touchdown and a field goal to tie the game, which cut the lead to 24-17.
The Chargers then elected not to try another onside kick, a decision they may regret because they never got the ball back.
But it looked like they would when Denver faced a 3rd down and 17 from their own 20. However, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hit Julius Thomas for a 20-yard gain and the first down, and then proceeded to convert two more 3rd down plays that allowed the Broncos to run out the clock, much to the relief of the Denver fans.
Next Sunday’s AFC title game will pit Peyton Manning against his old nemesis – New England quarterback Tom Brady. In their careers, they have met on the field 14 times, with Tom Brady holding a 10-4 advantage, including a 2-1 record in playoff games against Peyton’s teams.
New England is also 4-0 against Denver over the past three seasons.