What's buzzing:

Shutdown Corner

Denver Broncos ride their surprising defense to AFC championship game

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

View photo


(USA Today Sports Images)

DENVER – The Denver Broncos' defense was supposed to be the one liability that might keep them from the Super Bowl. But defense is the reason Denver advanced to the AFC championship game.

The Broncos shut down the Chargers in a fairly easy 24-17 win at Sports Authority Field. The Chargers made it a little interesting at the end with 17 fourth-quarter points after Denver built a huge lead, but Peyton Manning hit Julius Thomas for two huge third-down conversions late in the game to help seal it.

For most of the game, the Broncos' defense starred. The Chargers had 45 yards in the first half. Philip Rivers had five completions for 20 yards before halftime, and his longest completion was for 7 yards. Rivers had just 44 yards through three quarters, and as a team the Chargers didn't break the 100-yard barrier until the fourth quarter. The Chargers scored a couple touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but both came with Denver holding a 17-point lead.

Denver is back in the AFC championship game for the first time since the end of the 2005 season, and what a title game it will be. New England will be coming to town for another matchup between Manning and Tom Brady, the fourth time the two quarterbacks have met in the playoffs. Brady's Patriots won two of three playoff meetings against Manning when he was with the Colts. This is the third time the two legendary quarterbacks have met in the AFC championship game, with each of them winning one.

The Chargers didn't do much, at least in the first three quarters, to keep that highly anticipated matchup from happening, putting forth a truly forgettable performance on Sunday. But give the Broncos credit for that.

Denver's pass rush was very strong and the coverage didn't allow much for Rivers, at least until he rallied a bit in the fourth quarter. San Diego won at Denver in Week 15 by running the ball and controlling the clock, but did neither on Sunday.

Manning, who set NFL records for passing yards and touchdowns in the regular season, was as sharp as he needed to be. Touchdown passes to Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker in the first half gave the Broncos a comfortable 14-0 lead.

Denver's defense lost outside linebacker Von Miller to a ACL injury late in the season, but still played well in its final two regular-season games. But that came against Houston and Oakland, which wasn't much of a measuring stick. The performance against San Diego was a bit more convincing.

A strong wind that howled through the game affected San Diego's passing game. Ryan Mathews, who was a huge part of San Diego's offense down the stretch, was very limited with an ankle injury. Those things didn't help the Chargers, but the Broncos played very well.

Denver is a step away from the Super Bowl, and get ready to hear a lot about Brady and Manning before the Broncos and Patriots square off on Sunday. Just don't forget about the Broncos' defense in that matchup. They looked surprisingly good on Sunday.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.
    • AP source: Broncos' C.J. Anderson undergoing surgery

      AP source: Broncos' C.J. Anderson undergoing surgery

      A person with knowledge of the situation tells The Associated Press that Broncos running back C.J. Anderson will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday and that the extent of the damage will determine how long he's out. The person … More »

      AP - Sports - 7 minutes ago
    • The Latest: Jury has ex-Penn St. assistant defamation suit

      A former Penn State assistant football coach's defamation case against the university is in the hands of jurors. Both sides in the defamation and whistleblower lawsuit filed by Mike McQueary made closing arguments earlier Thursday. McQueary claims … More »

      AP - Sports - 9 minutes ago
    • Raiders-Buccaneers Capsule

      OAKLAND (5-2) at TAMPA BAY (3-3) … More »

      AP - Sports - 16 minutes ago
    • Verstappen threatens to cut the radio chat

      Verstappen threatens to cut the radio chat

      By Alan Baldwin MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Red Bull's Max Verstappen has threatened a radio blackout after causing a stir with his comments during last weekend's U.S. Grand Prix. The comment drew criticism from Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko, who … More »

      Reuters - 16 minutes ago
    • Ducks give holdout Lindholm 6-year deal

      Ducks give holdout Lindholm 6-year deal

      The Anaheim Ducks signed holdout Hampus Lindholm to a six-year, $31.5 million contract through the 2021-22 season on Thursday, ending a stalemate with their talented Swedish defenseman. The 22-year-old Lindholm scored 92 points in 236 games over … More »

      AP - Sports - 20 minutes ago