After the Broncos offense set an NFL record for scoring this season, it was a drive that resulted in no points that ultimately beat the San Diego Chargers and sent Denver to the AFC Championship. Peyton Manning converted two clutch third-downs on the final drive to eat up the remaining four minutes on the clock and preserve a 24-17 win.
After being held in check all game, the Chargers offense finally awoke in the final quarter, roaring back from a 17-0 deficit to pull within one score with just under four minutes remaining. But thanks to Denver's clock-chewing final march, they did not see the ball again.
San Diego gave the heavily-favored Broncos all they wanted, though, and Kyle Montgomery at Mile High Report knows they'll have to execute better if they hope to capture a league title.
The Broncos beat the Chargers because the defense came to play, and they are more talented on offense than San Diego's defense could handle. However, they did not execute to their potential - not nearly. Among all other three teams remaining - the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Patriots - the talent gap is no longer as wide as it was against the Chargers. The Broncos will not be able to beat any of these times without executing better than they did Sunday night.
San Diego was held scoreless through the first three quarters, and the offense's struggles have some fans upset with the coaching staff. Richard Wade at Bolts from the Blue writes that the loss had less to do with coaching ineptitude and more to do with simply running into a better team.
The most popular meme among Chargers fans after their 24-17 loss to the Broncos in Denver has been that the offense failed because of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was preoccupied with his head coaching interviews that took place on Friday and Saturday before the game. This explanation is unsatisfying for a number of reasons.
Whisenhunt is a professional. Mike McCoy is a control freak. The odds that these two men would allow the Chargers to go into a playoff game without a fully formed gameplan are astronomical. The Broncos are simply a better football team with a strong homefield advantage, and they were heavy favorites for a lot of reasons, none of which had anything to do with the Detroit Lions head coach opening.