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Keys to victory: Broncos 24, Chargers 17

What were the keys to the Denver Broncos' beating the San Diego Chargers 24-17 to advance to the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots?

Manning comes through when pressured

The Chargers put Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning under duress only twice in the game. The first time, Manning threw a touchdown pass to Wes Welker with six minutes left in the second quarter.

The second time came with the Broncos facing a third-and-17 with three minutes remaining. Manning completed a pass for 21 yards to Julius Thomas, allowing the Broncos to extend the drive and clinch the win.

Manning lures the Chargers into mistakes

The Chargers' defense committed five neutral-zone infraction penalties, the most by any team in any game this season.

That total was nearly as many as the number of penalties of that nature that the Broncos drew in the regular season (seven), fourth most in the NFL.

Broncos keep their offense on the field

Offense Sunday

The Broncos were able to sustain drives in this game and keep the Chargers off the field by going 9-of-13 on third down.

Their 26:48 time of possession through three quarters was longer than they had the ball in either of their regular-season meetings with the Chargers.

Chargers' offense: a case of too little, too late

The Chargers rallied late (helped by an onside kick recovery) to make this a close game, but were unable to complete the comeback.

San Diego’s problem was that it did little through the game’s first three quarters.

The Chargers' 79 total yards were their fewest through three quarters since Week 11 of 2003, also against the Broncos.

Philip Rivers' 44 pass yards through three quarters were his second fewest through three quarters in any start in his career (including playoffs).

The Chargers finished with 13 first downs and 259 yards of offense, both of which were season lows.

Broncos able to finish

In last year's AFC divisional playoffs, the Broncos had a chance to run out the clock against the Ravens, leading by seven with 3:12 remaining. They ran the ball five times, then had to punt. The Ravens were able to tie the game on their next possession.

This season, the Broncos led by seven with 3:53 left, but used a combination of the run and pass (six runs, four passes) to finish the game.

Stat of the Day

This will be the fourth meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady as opposing starting quarterbacks in the postseason. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that is tied for the most since the 1950 season. Brett Favre and Steve Young also met four times in the postseason, as did Terry Bradshaw and Ken Stabler.