Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McManus' Five FGs Help Denver Soar into AFC Title Contest

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McManus' Five FGs Help Denver Soar into AFC Title Contest

Article excerpt

DENVER * Peyton Manning gets to face his biggest nemesis for one more shot at glory. Get ready for Brady-Manning XVII.

The NFL's only five-time MVP earned one more and possibly final game against his rival by leading the Denver Broncos to a come-from- behind 23-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on a blustery Sunday.

But it was kicker Brandon McManus who produced most of Denver's points, tying an NFL playoffs record by kicking five field goals. That wasn't an easy task because just before kickoff a strong wind blew over the Rockies, wreaking havoc on passes and kicks alike.

McManus, who didn't miss any tries, joked that he just kept aiming "at the guy holding the beer in the top left corner."

Manning completed just 21 of 37 passes, for 222 yards. Still, Denver moves to the AFC championship game next Sunday at home, where the Broncos will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

What a fitting feature to an 18th season for Manning that's been equal parts trying and triumphant, filled with injuries and insults, rehab and redemption.

Now Manning and Brady are set to square off for the 17th time.

"It'll be the Broncos vs. the Patriots," Manning said of the AFC's top two seeds. "We'll enjoy this one tonight. I think you knew that answer was coming. To kind of quote (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick, we'll be on to New England. But I'll be talking about them on Wednesday."

Football fans certainly won't wait that long.

Brady has won 11 of the 16 meetings against Manning, but they're 2-2 in the playoffs, including Denver's 26-16 win in the conference championship game two years ago.

Manning's teammates dropped seven passes but also came through in crunch time. Denver is 10-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and Manning said being battle-tested helped them on this blustery day.

With Denver down 13-12 with less than 10 minutes left, cornerback Bradley Roby, burned time and again, punched the ball from Steelers running back Fitzgerald Toussaint's arms and teammate DeMarcus Ware recovered at Denver's 35-yard line.

"Perfect timing," Roby said.

Toussaint, who scored his first career TD in the first half, took it hard and blamed himself.

"I have to protect the ball. There's no excuse for that," he said. "I hate losing. I definitely hate not holding on to the football. Especially when it's in a position like that."

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tried to cheer up Toussaint.

"This is not all on him by any means," he said. "It's on all of us."

After the fumble, Manning went to work, driving Denver to its only touchdown a 1-yard run by C.J. Anderson, followed by Demaryius Thomas' catch on the 2-pointer that put Denver ahead 20-13 with three minutes left.

Pitsburgh's Chris Boswell made a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds left, his third field goal of the day, but Anderson recovered the ensuing onside kick.

Manning credited Denver's NFL-best defense for thwarting a team that piled up 34 points on them last month and an offense that stayed patient. …

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