Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) calls an audible at the line of scrimmage against the San Diego Chargers in the first quarter of an NFL AFC division playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
It will be the Denver Broncos hosting the New England Patriots in the AFC title game next Sunday before the San Francisco 49ers take on the Seahawks in Seattle for the NFC crown. The Broncos advanced by holding off a late San Diego rally after the Niners came back to beat the Panthers in Carolina.
The Broncos jumped out to a 17-0 lead before holding on for a 24-17 win over the visiting Chargers. Peyton Manning tossed touchdown passes to Wes Welker and Demaryius (deh-MAR'-ee-uhs) Thomas in the first half and was 25 of 36 for 230 yards and one interception.
Knowshown (NOH'-shawn) Moreno had a three-yard touchdown run to make it 24-7 with 8:12 remaining before Philip Rivers led the Chargers on back-to-back scoring drives to close the gap. Nick Novak hit a 30-yard field goal with 3:53 to play, less than two minutes after Rivers threw a 16-yard TD pass to Keenan Allen.
But Rivers never got back on the field following Novak's kick as the Broncos picked up three first downs to run out the clock. Manning prolonged the game-ending drive by hitting Julius Thomas for a 21-yard gain on third-and-17.
Rivers was 18 of 27 for 217 yards and no interceptions for the Chargers, who gained just 65 yards on 18 carries. Meanwhile, San Diego allowed Moreno and Montee Ball to combine for 134 rushing yards.
The Niners advanced by scoring the last 17 points in a 23-10 triumph over the Panthers. The Panthers led 10-6 until Colin Kaepernick (KAP'-ur-nik) hit Vernon Davis with a five-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left in the first half. Kaepernick added a four-yard touchdown run and was 15 of 28 for 196 yards. Anquan (AN'-kwahn) Boldin had eight catches for 136 yards, and Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17 carries for the 49ers.
The Niners held Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in check, intercepting him twice and sacking him five times. Newton also was stopped short on keepers from the San Francisco 1-yard line.
The 49ers now prepare for their third meeting with the Seahawks this season. San Francisco absorbed a 29-3 beating in Seattle in Week 2 and pulled out a 19-17 win over the Seahawks in Week 14.