January 12

NFL PLAYOFFS: Manning, Denver hold off San Diego

Broncos host Patriots for AFC Championship

(Continued from page 1)

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Denver Broncos middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard (52) and Denver Broncos defensive end Malik Jackson (97) react after sacking San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) in the second quarter of an NFL AFC division playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Those boos were replaced by cheers in this game, the scowls by smiles.

Allen finished with six catches for 142 yards as the Chargers lost for the first time in six weeks.

The Broncos took a 14-0 halftime lead that could have easily been 21-0 if not for blunders by Decker, who tripped with no defender near him at the San Diego 30-yard line after a 47-yard punt return.

Then, on third-and-goal from the 4, Manning hit him with a perfect pass as he cut across the back of the end zone, but it bounced off his chest and into the arms of linebacker Donald Butler with 30 seconds left.

Manning threw up his arms in disbelief after his first red zone interception of the season – following 39 red-zone TDs.

Thomas also had a turnover, but it wasn’t that costly as Novak slipped and his foot hit the ground on a 53-yard field goal try that was short and wide left.

The Chargers were the only opponent to win in Denver all season, prevailing 27-20 exactly a month earlier when the Broncos were missing Welker (concussion) and went 2 for 9 on third down.

Welker finished with six catches for 38 yards, although he dropped his first pass and also couldn’t hold onto another 27-yarder at the goal line.

Manning led a 14-play, 86-yard drive that chewed up 7 minutes on Denver’s first drive. He capped it with a 2-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas, then hit Welker from 3 yards out in the second quarter to make it 14-0.

This was the 109th meeting between the original AFL rivals but the first in the postseason.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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