Manning, who has helped lead the team to the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed in each of the past two seasons, completed 25-of-36 passes for 230 yards and a pair of scores in Denver’s win.
“This was a good team win,” Manning said. “The biggest difference early in the game was the defense was getting them off the field and we were staying on the field. So it was a good team win. That’s what you have to have in the playoffs to beat good teams, and certainly what we’ll have to have next week.”
The quarterback completed passes to seven different players in the victory, but none were bigger than h
After a Chargers field goal cut the Broncos’ lead to 24-17 with 3:56 to play in the fourth quarter, Manning and the offense were able to put together a 10-play drive that drained the clock.
“To run (four) minutes off of the clock at the end of the game, that was big-time football there,” Manning said.
Denver converted three third downs on that possession, including a 21-yard completion from Manning to Thomas on third-and-17, the third play of the drive.
“We have worked situations all week,” Manning said. “It was nice that all that hard work paid off for us in that situation. The third-and-15, certainly it was a no-brainer there what you had to do. It was really disappointing that we were even in that position. We had been so good on first and second down the entire game, and we had a penalty, had run for a negative loss, had an incompletion.
“Great play call by (Offensive Coordinator) Adam (Gase). Really was a big-time play call. Got them in the right look and a good catch by Julius. The second one was another good route by Julius. I thought you saw that all game, Adam putting different guys in different positions. Certainly two huge third-down conversions, which were the difference in the ball game.”
With the win, Denver will host the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at 1 p.m. MST on Sunday, Jan. 19 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Next week’s game will mark Manning’s fourth conference championship game. He has a 2-1 record thus far for his career in that round.
It will be the third time he plays against the Patriots for a chance to earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Manning’s Indianapolis Colts beat the Patriots in 2007 and lost to them in the teams’ 2004 matchup.
“We’ll enjoy this one. You’re supposed to enjoy these wins,” Manning said. “They’re hard to come by, and we’ll start working on the Patriots tomorrow.”