It wasn’t always pretty, but the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs by a score of 23-16. The team played from behind for most of the game, as the Steelers held the lead for 43:22 consecutively. In fact, the Broncos didn’t get the lead back (after an early first-quarter advantage) until exactly three minutes were left in the game.
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak explained why he thought the team came out on top.
“We just kept our poise, kept grinding," he said. "That’s what our team has been about all year. We’re in a close ballgame, then we make a big play.”
Kubiak continued, “Just proud of our team. We found a way to win. They’re a great football team, great organization. Just glad we hung in there and got it done.”
Here are some notes and quotes after the Broncos' big win on Sunday.
Broncos Earn 10th AFC Championship Appearance
With the win over the Steelers, the Broncos secured their 10th AFC Championship appearance. Remarkably, nine of the 10 appearances have come under owner Pat Bowlen. That ties Denver for fourth best in NFL history for conference title game appearances under one owner.
|Clint Murchison Jr.||Dallas Cowboys||12|
|Al Davis||Oakland Raiders||10|
|Edward DeBartolo Jr.||San Francisco 49ers||10|
|Pat Bowlen||Denver Broncos||9|
|Robert Kraft||New England Patriots||9|
Kubiak was happy to be in this spot with this team, especially after an up-and-down regular season: “I’m very proud of our organization and our team, but what you just said is exactly what we’ve been about all year. There hasn’t been one way that we’ve won. We’ve kind of won all kinds of different ways.”
McManus Ties NFL Postseason Record for Field Goals
The Broncos didn’t light up the scoreboard against the Steelers, but kicker Brandon McManus made sure he didn’t disappoint when asked to kick field goals on Sunday. McManus tied an NFL postseason record with five field goals made (28, 41, 51, 41, 45) against the Steelers. He became just the seventh player in league history to hit all five field goals in a postseason game.
McManus’ 51-yarder before halftime tied for the second-longest in team postseason history.
|Matt Prater||vs. N.E. (1/19/14)||52|
|Brandon McManus||vs. PIT (1/17/16)||51|
|Jason Elam||vs. G.B. (1/25/98)||51|
What’s truly amazing about this performance is it came in a game during which the wind was gusting wildly across the stadium.
McManus explained his mindset when kicking in such windy conditions: "You kind of have to hit a ball to a spot and hopefully the wind takes it. I had that 51-yarder right before halftime. I thought it wasn’t going to be easy down the middle, and it barely snuck in that way.
"So it definitely made it difficult conditions for us kickers, punters and snappers, but I have the best snapper and holder for me."
Kubiak Wins Postseason Debut as Head Coach
Kubiak became the third Broncos head coach to win on his postseason debut with the team. He joins Red Miller and John Fox as the other coaches to accomplish such a feat. Interestingly, all three of these coaches earned these wins in home playoff games against the Steelers.
|Red Miller||vs. PIT (12/24/1977)||W, 34-21|
|John Fox||vs. PIT (1/8/12)||W, 29-23 (OT)|
|Gary Kubiak||vs. PIT (1/17/16)||W, 23-16|
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas described the atmosphere in the locker room after the win.
“It wasn’t too emotional," Thomas said. "We got a win and got over the hump but the main thing is trying to go out and get the win next week. [Kubiak] was proud of us. It wasn’t pretty, he said. The main thing was to go out fighting and we kept fighting.”
Manning Earns 12th Postseason Win
Peyton Manning is certainly going to wind up in the Hall of Fame when his playing days are done. With a victory on Sunday, Manning earned the 12th postseason win of his career. That put him past the likes of Troy Aikman, Ben Roethlisberger and Roger Staubach for sixth all time in the NFL.
After the game, the veteran quarterback wouldn’t get too much into the team’s next opponent: "Obviously, we’re excited to be in the game. We knew we were going to have to beat a good football team tonight in order to get there. We’ll try to enjoy this one tonight and then get a jump start on preparing for that game on Monday and then we’ll talk about who we’re playing on Wednesday.”
The Broncos know how to win close games. This victory represented their third fourth-quarter comeback of the season (all against 2015 playoff teams). They improved to 3-1 in games in which they were trailing entering the fourth quarter.
They are 10-3 in games decided by seven points or under.
Manning knows that kind of experience can come in handy during the postseason.
“I think it helps playing a lot of close games during the course of the season, starting with the very first one against [the] Baltimore [Ravens]," the quarterback said. "That was a dogfight, grinder and went down to the last drive. If you can be in a lot of those games and win those games, it certainly gives you confidence and, hey, it’s playoff football.”
Manning concluded: “It’s very rare that there are huge blowouts in a playoff game. It’s going to be close game. You know it’s going to be a grind down to the wire. That’s certainly what it was tonight.”
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via the Broncos media department unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats via ESPN's employees-only database.