NFL Divisional Recap: Broncos & Panthers Win, Advance To Title Games
The top seeds in the AFC and NFC each won on Sunday to advance to next week’s conference championships. Here’s a recap of the action:
Denver 23, Pittsburgh 16
C.J. Anderson scored on a 1-yard run with three minutes to play, and the Broncos rallied past the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-16, in the AFC divisional playoffs in windy Denver on Sunday. The Broncos advanced to their second AFC title game in three years with the victory.
Pittsburgh held Denver to three first-half field goals and led 10-9 at halftime. The Steelers were still ahead 13-12 and in field goal range in the fourth quarter when DeMarcus Ware recovered a momentum-changing fumble by Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Toussaint with 10 minutes to play.
The Broncos went on an epic 13-play, 65-yard drive that chewed up 6:52 of clock, ending in Anderson’s touchdown — Denver’s first in 23 postseason possessions dating back to last year’s divisional playoff loss to the Colts.
After a failed Steelers drive, the Broncos added Brandon McManus’ 45-yard field goal, his fifth of the day, to lead 23-13 with 53 seconds left. Pittsburgh was able to move into position for a 47-yard Chris Boswell field goal to narrow the deficit, but Anderson grabbed the ensuing onside kick to clinch the win for Denver.
Anderson carried 15 times for 72 yards and the go-ahead score. Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning completed 21 of 37 passes for 222 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was sacked just once.
Veteran Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t seem bothered by the injured right shoulder that made him questionable for this game. He completed 24 of 37 passes for 339 yards, and led his team to 396 yards of total offense against the NFL’s best regular-season defense.
Martavis Bryant caught nine passes for 154 yards for Pittsburgh.
Denver will host New England in the AFC title game next Sunday afternoon for the right to go to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Carolina 31, Seattle 24
Jonathan Stewart ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns, and the Carolina Panthers built a 31-point first-half lead, then held on to beat the Seattle Seahawks, 31-24, in the NFC divisional playoffs in Charlotte on Sunday. Carolina dethroned the two-time defending NFC champs and advanced to their first conference title game in 10 years.
Stewart ran for 59 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and the Panthers drove 75 yards in four plays on the game’s opening possession, which ended with his four-yard touchdown run.
Carolina’s Luke Kuechly intercepted Seattle’s Russell Wilson and returned the ball 14 yards for a score on the ensuing drive. The Panthers went on to build a 31-0 halftime lead.
Wilson threw three touchdown passes in the second half, as he tried to rally the Seahawks from the staggering deficit. Seattle drew within a touchdown on Steven Hauschka’s 36-yard field goal with 1:16 left, but Carolina’s Thomas Davis corralled the Seahawks’ onside kick attempt to secure the win.
Wilson finished 31-for-48 passing for 366 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Jermaine Kearse caught 11 passes for 110 yards and two scores.
Cam Newton completed 16 of 22 pass attempts for 161 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers.
Carolina will host Arizona in the NFC Championship Game next Sunday evening for the right to go to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif.