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Demaryius Thomas (88) of the Denver Broncos leaves the field after warmups. 17, 2016. Demaryius Thomas, playing with his mom in the crowd for the first time in his career, made her proud. His reception in the fourth quarter set a Broncos record for most postseason catches with 50. His 739 receiving yards ranks second in Denver playoff history behind Rod Smith 860.

Manning errorless. Manning, who led the NFL in interceptions before Brock Osweiler took over in November, protected the ball like his PIN password. It was just his second game this season without an interception, his first as a starter.

McPerfect. Brandon McManus, much maligned after his wild hook against the Bengals three weeks ago, was 5 for 5 on field goals on a windy day, including a 51 yarder in the second quarter.

Dropped passes. If Broncos fans chanted IN COM PLETE for their own team, they would have been hoarse by halftime. Denver receivers dropped seven passes from Peyton Manning, including six in the first half. No team in the NFL had more dropped passes in a game this season. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas and Ronnie Hillman also dropped one.

Third and done. Dropped passes didn help on third down, when the Broncos failed so often to move the sticks and generated momentum. They didn convert a second third down until a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter. Denver finished 3 for 15 on third down conversions.

Playing it safe. How wildly different would the game have turned if the Broncos had not settled for a field goal on fourth and 1 from Pittsburgh 10 yard line on their first drive?Offense: C

Brandon McManus accounted all the Broncos’ points through the third quarter as the offense struggled to find its rhythm, and the end zone. The Broncos had seven drops (six in the first half) and were 3 of 15 on third downs, but were given a break when the defense forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. Anderson capped the ensuing drive with the game winning, one yard touchdown run,
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and Demaryius Thomas sealed it with a two point conversion. Peyton Manning finished 21 of 37 for 222 yards.

Miscommunication in the early going led to wide open, deep catches for Pittsburgh, who racked up 133 yards in the first quarter, the most allowed in that quarter by the Broncos this season. But the defense came through when it counted most, with a forced fumble by Bradley Roby and recovery by DeMarcus Ware to set up the game winning drive. Ware had a sack late in the game, one of three by the defense.

Omar Bolden returned a punt 42 yards to help set up a field goal by McManus in the first quarter, and Kayvon Webster later kept a Broncos kickoff from going into the end zone for a 17 yard saving in yardage. McManus set a team playoff record with his five field goals and, in coverage, the Broncos allowed only 20 yards on four punt returns by Pittsburgh.

This game was the Broncos to lose, with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger playing with a hurt shoulder, and the Steelers playing without their leading receiver and running back. And the Broncos almost did lose it. But a big play courtesy of Roby and Ware gave the Broncos a chance to redeem themselves and advance. The inefficiency on offense deserves attention in the coming week, though.

Game balls

Brandon McManus. The Broncos’ kicker set a team record for most field goals in a playoff game, at five. His 51 yarder tied Jason Elam for the second longest by a Bronco in a playoff game.

DeMarcus Ware. The veteran outside linebacker recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter to set up the game winning drive, then sacked Roethlisberger on Pittsburgh’s subsequent drive.

Is it me or is Von seemingly wildly inconsistent this year. He had a line on the rb (quarter 1 I think) and totally whiffed. Its almost as if he playing too fast albeit he opens rush lanes for others he been almost erased the last few weeks. He is WAY too talented to allow a scrapheap tackle to shut him out. I feel like he HAS to wake up for us to get a chip this year. And on the other side of the ball JESUS, if Scho messes up one more time; He was manhandled by Tuitt and the one good block he laid on a run thru his gap was a hold dude is definitely standing in his own way where Polumbus? BTW, also why is Evan getting so much burn when he been outplayed by Max? Granted he slightly better in passpro but he seemingly gets driven back twice a quarter in the run game.
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