Peyton Manning, back to the starting lineup for the first time since November 15, rescued his team with a late touchdown drive as the Denver Broncos advanced to the AFC Championship Game courtesy a 26-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Divisional Playoff game Sunday.
Manning and his Broncos (13-4) will now host fellow contemporary great Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (13-4) next weekend in a match that is being hailed as Manning vs Brady XVII. It will be the fifth time the two iconic quarterbacks will go head-to-head in the playoffs – more than any two QBs in NFL history. They share two victories apiece going into the AFC championship game.
The match-up is reminiscent to Bird vs Magic or Ali vs Frazier. But Manning played it down. “It’ll be the Broncos vs. the Patriots. We’ll enjoy this one tonight. I think you knew that answer was coming. To kind of quote Bill Belichick, we’ll be on to New England. But I’ll be talking about them on Wednesday.”
With less than 10 minutes left, the Broncos trailed 13-12 before cornerback Bradley Roby robbed the ball from Fitzgerald Toussaint’s arms with DeMarcus Ware recovering at Denver’s 35-yard line. (Watch Video Highlights Above). The play proved to be the turning point. |Box Score|
Thereafter, Manning went to work, driving Broncos’ only touchdown. C.J. Anderson ran it from the 1 before Demaryius Thomas caught the 2-point exchange for a 20-13 Broncos lead with three minutes left in the game. Soon after that, Ware sacked Steelers’ next drive and Brandon McManus kicked an NFL playoff record-tying fifth field goal.
With 19 seconds left, Chris Boswell made a last gasp effort with a 47-yarder, but Anderson recovered the onside kick, enough for Broncos fans to begin celebrations.
Gritty Defense pulls Broncos through
“When we needed it, we got that big drive and we got that touchdown to close it up,” Peyton Manning, who finished 21 for 37 for 222 yards, said after Sunday’s victory.
Manning finished with zero touchdowns and interceptions. Clearly, it wasn’t a very pretty game. Broncos had to rely on gritty defense to get the job done.
The winner of Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady XVII will advance to the Super Bowl game.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 18, 2016
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 18, 2016