DENVER, COLORADO – The top seed in the AFC playoffs belongs to Denver, along with a quarterback quandary.
Peyton Manning’s stint as a backup didn’t last very long as he replaced Brock Osweiler in the third quarter Sunday and led the Broncos to a 27-20 win over San Diego.
Coach Gary Kubiak said he played a hunch, but he refused to reveal who will be his starter in the playoffs — or even acknowledge he has quite the puzzle at the position.
Osweiler threw for 232 yards, including a 72-yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas on the game’s second play. But he was victimized by five turnovers, including two interceptions that weren’t his fault, and a fumble by Emmanuel Sanders at the 10-yard line after a 46-yard reception.
One of Osweiler’s interceptions went off receiver Jordan Norwood’s hands. His arm was hit by a linebacker on the other, and his day was done after a fumble by C.J. Anderson on the second play after halftime.
None of that was his fault, but the Broncos needed a spark and Manning provided it.
“I don’t think Brock did anything wrong,” Kubiak said. “I know we had the turnovers, but a couple of them he had nothing to do with. But just my gut told me to turn it over to (Manning) and let him lead the football team. I’m just very proud of him. He’s worked really hard to stay there for us and it couldn’t be a bigger day to be there for us.”
Manning led Denver to 20 points in 1½ quarters despite going just 5 of 9 for 69 yards.
“It was tough on the emotions,” Osweiler said. “But winning the AFC West is what it’s all about.”
Manning was healthy enough to suit up for the first time in seven weeks. He said his foot felt good after the game, but he has to see how he feels Monday after taking a hard hit from defensive tackle Damion Square.
“He got me right in the chest,” Manning said. “I’ve got to see how I feel tomorrow. I’m glad we won the division. I’m glad we won this game today. That would have been pretty sickening (to lose). It’s been a different year. I was glad to be able to contribute in some way today.”
Vikings 20, Packers 13: In Green Bay, Adrian Peterson ran for a touchdown, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned a fumble 55 yards for a score and Minnesota won the NFC North.
Bills 22, Jets 17: In Orchard Park, New York, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw interceptions on each of New York’s final three drives and the Jets’ playoff hopes were dashed.
New York (10-6) would have made the postseason for the first time since 2010 with a win.
Steelers 28, Browns 12: In Cleveland, Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, Pittsburgh’s defense dominated and the Steelers slipped into the AFC playoffs with the win.
Dolphins 20, Patriots 10: In Miami Gardens, Florida, Tom Brady was sacked twice and knocked down at least half a dozen times, and New England missed a chance to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Texans 30, Jaguars 6: In Houston, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus led the defense, Jonathan Grimes scored twice and the Texans won the AFC South.
Bengals 24, Ravens 16: In Cincinnati, AJ McCarron overcame a rough start and threw a pair of touchdown passes.
Panthers 38, Buccaneers 10: In Charlotte, Cam Newton ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more.
Chiefs 23, Raiders 17: In Kansas City, Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and the Chiefs collected a franchise-best 10th straight win.
Seahawks 36, Cardinals 6: In Glendale, Arizona, Russell Wilson threw three touchdowns and Seattle snapped the Cardinals’ nine-game win streak.
Eagles 35, Giants 30: In East Rutherford, New Jersey, New York suffered another tough loss in what may have been coach Tom Coughlin’s final game.
Redskins 34, Cowboys 23: In Arlington, Texas, Kirk Cousins threw for three touchdowns in the first half.
Colts 30, Titans 24: In Indianapolis, the Colts (8-8) won their last two games to avoid their first losing season since 2011, but didn’t get the help they needed — a Houston loss and seven other games to go the right way — to make the postseason.
Saints 20, Falcons 17: In Atlanta, Jamarca Sanford’s interception at the Falcons’ 25 with less than two minutes remaining set up Kai Forbath’s 30-yard field goal as time expired.
Lions 24, Bears 20: In Chicago, Matthew Stafford threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns.
49ers 19, Rams 16 (OT): In Santa Clara, California, Phil Dawson kicked a 23-yard field goal 11:33 into overtime to lift San Francisco.