The Denver Broncos pulled away in the third quarter to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-23, on Sunday afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo. With the win, the Broncos clinched their second consecutive AFC West championship.
The Broncos used three touchdowns in a five-minute span to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 28-10 lead. Peyton Manning hit Demaryius Thomas for an 8-yard scoring strike to regain the lead for the Broncos at the 9:27 mark in the quarter. Less than five minutes later, Manning connected with Thomas again, this time on a 10-yard slant pattern to make it a two-score game.
It took just 41 seconds for the Broncos to extend their lead, as Von Miller intercepted a pass from Josh Freeman and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown, putting Denver ahead, 28-10. Tampa Bay would fight back in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Broncos, 13-3. However, the Bucs' onside kick attempt after Mike Williams' late touchdown grab bounced into the hands of Denver's Eric Decker, effectively ending their shot at a comeback.
Manning overcame a third-quarter interception to complete go 27-of-38 for 242 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas deserves a nod here, too, for his 99-yard, two-score day.
Despite gaining 98 total yards, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin failed to find the end zone, and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.
Did they cover?
The Broncos, who entered the game as 7 1/2-point favorites, held on to cover despite the Buccaneers' fourth-quarter rally attempt.
Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. At the time, his return was questionable, but he never made it back into the game.
Buccaneers cornerback LeQuan Lewis was carted off the sideline after suffering an injury in the fourth quarter. He also did not return.