ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the final quarter of the season, the Broncos snared the final victory in their six-game win streak -- perhaps the most improbable of them all -- before dropping the last three games of the season.
The 1-3 record down the stretch gave the Broncos an 8-8 mark for the season, enough to win the AFC West and earn a spot in the playoffs.
GAME RECAP: Down 10-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Broncos had managed just 96 yards of offense against the Bears defense all game.
With no timeouts and seemingly no hope, Denver began clawing its way back. It started with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas.
After a failed onside kick attempt, the Broncos benefitted from the two-minute warning and an ill-advised decision by Bears running back Marion Barber to run out of bounds, stopping the clock.
That gave Denver another shot to get back in the game, and Matt Prater delivered with a 59-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, Wesley Woodyard forced a fumble on a run by Barber, and Elvis Dumervil recovered it to set up Denver for the win. Prater delivered yet again with a 51-yard game-winner.
TURNING POINT: The Bears looked set to put any Broncos comeback attempt to rest in overtime, as they faced a third-and-7 at the Broncos 38-yard line -- arguably field goal range.
Barber took a handoff, found a big hole and looked destined to set up a game-winning field goal for Chicago. But Woodyard's diving forced fumble and Dumervil's recovery swung the momentum back to the Broncos.
KEY STATISTIC: 2-for-2, as in Prater's field goal stats from 50 yards or longer. His 51-yard field goal in overtime marked the third consecutive week Prater had kicked a game-winner.
QUOTABLE: "Last week was crazy, the week before was crazy, but every week, the next game takes the crown."
GAME RECAP: At the start of the second quarter, the Broncos had taken a 16-7 lead on the New England Patriots behind a seemingly unstoppable run game.
But three lost fumbles, seven penalties and communication breakdowns spoiled that strong start, and the Patriots took advantage to end Denver's six-game win streak.
Denver looked to be mounting a second-half comeback yet again, as Tim Tebow capped off an 89-yard drive with a rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter. But Tom Brady orchestrated a methodical nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to quell the momentum and cement the final score.
TURNING POINT: After the Patriots trimmed Denver's lead to 16-14, the Broncos lost fumbles on three consecutive possessions, which led to 13 New England Points just before halftime. The Patriots scored on the opening possession of the second half, and the rout was on.
KEY STATISTIC(S): The Broncos rushed for 167 yards in the first quarter as they took an early lead over the Patriots. But the team finished the game minus-3 in the turnover battle, which heavily contributed to the loss.
QUOTABLE: "This was a setback, no doubt about that. But sometimes setbacks are setups for bigger things to come. That's the way we'll approach it."
-Head Coach John Fox
GAME RECAP:The Broncos put together strong opening drives in the first and second halves -- both leading to touchdowns -- but those proved to be the only Denver points all afternoon as the Bills used big plays and capitalized on mistakes to take home a 40-14 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Buffalo took its first lead courtesy of an 80-yard punt return touchdown by Leodis McKelvin, and a 4-yard touchdown run by C.J. Spiller -- who topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career -- extended Buffalo's lead to 17-7 at halftime.
Denver opened the second half with a 17-yard touchdown strike from Tebow to Daniel Fells, pulling to within three points, but Bills kicker Dave Rayner made three consecutive field goals to push the lead to 26-14.
During that stretch, the Broncos managed just one first down, and Tebow threw the first of three interceptions -- one of which was returned for a touchdown. Buffalo also scored on defense by returning a Tebow fumble for a touchdown as the game got out of hand.
TURNING POINT: Even with the offense struggling in the second half, the Broncos were down just 12 points when Tebow looked for Eric Decker downfield for a big play. But Bills safety Jairus Byrd intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown. On the first play of Denver's ensuing drive, Tebow's arm was hit as he threw a pass, and the Bills returned the fumble for another touchdown to put the game completely out of reach.
KEY STATISTIC:The Broncos were minus-four in the turnover battle.
QUOTABLE:"Offense, defense and special teams -- we all gave up a touchdown. It's not acceptable."
GAME RECAP:In the regular-season finale, the Broncos gave up just one touchdown -- a run by Dexter McCluster in the first quarter -- and forced the Chiefs to punt on seven of their last nine possessions, not including their two possessions cut short at the end of each half.
But Denver's offense could only muster a 38-yard Prater field goal after the special teams unit recovered a muffed punt early in the second half.
The Broncos failed to score on their final five possessions of the game following Prater's field goal, and a Tebow interception sealed a Chiefs win.
However, Chargers' 38-26 victory over the Raiders meant Denver won the AFC West and was headed to the postseason for the first time since the 2005 campaign.
TURNING POINT: Tebow was intercepted on a fourth-down pass with 19 seconds remaining, allowing Kansas City to run the remaining seconds off the clock for the victory.
KEY STATISTIC:Denver's 216-yard rushing performance gave the Broncos 2,632 rushing yards for the season -- the most in franchise history.
QUOTABLE:"It's obviously a little bittersweet right now. We would have loved to have won that game, and (had) a little bit more momentum going into the playoffs, but I think it's still a special thing what we accomplished, to come back to win the AFC West."