DENVER (AP) — Peyton Manning welcomed Wes Welker back into the lineup with a touchdown toss and the Denver Broncos narrowly avoided a repeat of their playoff slip from last year, advancing to the AFC championship game with a 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
The Broncos (14-3) controlled the game for 3½ quarters before Philip Rivers capitalized on an injury to cornerback Chris Harris Jr. to stage a comeback reminiscent of Baltimore’s shocking win at Denver exactly a year earlier.
This time, however, Manning rescued the Broncos from the brink of another crushing collapse and sent them into the title game for the first time in eight seasons.
They’ll host the New England Patriots (13-4) on Sunday. Get ready for Brady vs. Manning once more.
In the NFC, Colin Kaepernick threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score as the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Carolina Panthers 23-10 on Sunday to advance to the conference championship game for the third straight season.
Kaepernick completed 15 of 28 passes for 196 yards, avenging his worst statistical performance of the season two months ago against the Panthers.
Anquan Boldin had eight catches for 136 yards and Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17 carries for the 49ers (14-4), who’ll travel to Seattle next Sunday looking for a return trip to the Super Bowl. San Francisco split two games with the Seahawks this season.
The 49ers held Cam Newton in check, intercepting him twice and sacking him four times while stopping the Panthers (12-5) twice on a 1-yard line.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.