AFC / NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES SET
Broncos one win away from Super Bowl 50
UNDATED (AP) – The AFC and NFC championship game matchups are set. The Denver Broncos will be home against the New England Patriots, and the Carolina Panthers will host the Arizona Cardinals.The Broncos have advanced by rallying in the fourth quarter of a 23-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers led 13-12 with less than 10 minutes left when cornerback Bradley Roby punched the ball from Fitzgerald Toussaint’s arms before teammate DeMarcus Ware recovered at the Denver 35. Peyton Manning led a methodical drive into the end zone as C.J. Anderson scored the go-ahead touchdown on a one-yard run before Demaryius (deh-MAR’-ee-uhs) Thomas caught the 2-point conversion for a 20-13 lead with three minutes remaining.Pittsburgh’s last opportunity to tie the game ended on Ware’s sack of Ben Roethlisberger on the next drive. Brandon McManus iced the victory with his fifth field goal of the game, a 45-yarder with 53 seconds left. The five field goals tied an NFL playoff record.
Manning was victimized by several drops, yet he was able to complete 21 of his 37 throws for 222 and no interceptions. Anderson finished with 72 yards on 15 carries.Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards, with Martavis (mahr-TAY’-vihs) Bryant grabbing nine passes for 154 yards as the featured receiver in place of the injured Antonio Brown.
The Broncos are in the AFC title game for the second time since 2005. They had lost three of their four previous divisional playoff games.In Sunday’s NFC divisional game, the Panthers carried a 31-0 lead into the second half before holding off the Seattle Seahawks 31-24. Carolina built its lead on two touchdown runs by Jonathan Stewart, a TD pass by Cam Newton, a pick-six by Luke Kuechly (KEEK’-lee) and a 48-yard field goal by Graham Gano (guh-NOH’).
However, the Panthers couldn’t move the ball in the second half, allowing the Seahawks to close their deficit. Russell Wilson threw two of his three touchdown passes to Jermaine Kearse before Steven Hauschka’s (HOWSH’-kahz) 36-yard field goal got Seattle within a touchdown with 1:12 remaining. The Seahawks’ rally ended when the Panthers recovered the onside kick.Stewart finished with 106 yards rushing on 19 carries for the Panthers, including a 59-yard burst on the first play from scrimmage. Newton completed 16 of his 22 passes for 161 yards and no interceptions.
Wilson’s two interceptions led to 10 Carolina points. Kearse finished with 11 receptions for 110 yards, and Wilson was 31 of 48 for 366 yards.The Panthers are in the NFC title game for the fourth time, and first since 2005.