That is just the way they wrote it up. It really had to be like this. It had to be an up and down, back and forth battle. That’s the way the Denver Broncos have played all season, and that is the way their first postseason game had to go.
After struggling through much of the game, the Broncos got the break they needed and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 23-16 in one of the classic postseason games in franchise history.
Things could not have started more precariously for the Broncos. Five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, who was starting his first game since a four-interception debacle nearly three months ago, seemed once again to be the helm of an offense that was stuck in a rut.
The Manning-led offense failed to cash in on multiple short fields, settling for field goals throughout much of the first half. In fact, much of this game surrounded a kicking duel. Denver’s Brandon McManus and Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell combined for seven field goals during the ballgame.
“We had some good field position early and had to settle for field goals,” Manning said. “Give Pittsburgh some credit for that.”
For his part, Manning was efficient, if not particularly effective. He went 21-for-37 for 222 yards. However, the most important number for the future Hall of Famer is easy to identify: zero. For the first time in a game he started this season, Manning did not throw a single interception.
He did not get much help from his receivers, however. Manning’s weapons dropped seven passes during the game, including several easy throws. The game balanced back and forth between a four and one-point deficit for Denver.
Yet, because of the Broncos offensive inefficiency, things appeared hopeless as the Steelers began to drive the football downfield mid-way through the fourth quarter. Of course, it was far from the first time the Broncos have faced long odds this season, and it was far from the first time they have come through. It would take one big break for the Broncos to get things turned around.
That break came on a fumble from Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Toussaint, recovered by Denver, providing the spark the Broncos needed to get back on top of the ball game.
On the next Denver offensive series, Peyton Manning showed why he was the best option for the Broncos in the postseason. Manning orchestrated the touchdown drive the Broncos needed, scoring on a two-yard C.J. Anderson touchdown with just three minutes to play.
Head coach Gary Kubiak commented on his 39-year-old quarterback’s play.
“I thought Peyton played really well,” Kubiak said. “He kept his poise. It was a field goal football game, turnover was the difference in the game.”
So, after a back and forth battle, the Denver Broncos will host the New England Patriots next weekend for a shot to take part in Super Bowl 50.
It will be the seventeenth time Peyton Manning has faced off against Tom Brady, and the fourth time they will do it in an AFC title game.
“We’re excited to be in this game,” Manning said. “We’ve got to enjoy this one tonight and get a jump start on improving Monday and focus on who we play on Wednesday.”
Would you really want it any other way?
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