CINCINNATI – With everything on the line, the Cincinnati Bengals picked off Peyton Manning – twice, no less – and ran back into the NFL playoffs.
Dre Kirkpatrick returned Manning’s third interception for a touchdown in the closing minutes Monday night, completing a fourth-quarter rally that gave Cincinnati a 37-28 victory over the Denver Broncos and a spot in the playoffs.
Kirkpatrick’s 30-yard return with 2:41 left capped a game of big plays – long runs, big kick returns and two interceptions run back for scores. With 67 seconds left, Kirkpatrick picked off Manning again to clinch it.
The Bengals (10-4-1) secured a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive season, a franchise record. They’ll play in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, with the winner taking the AFC North title.
Manning rallied the Broncos (11-4) to three touchdowns in the third quarter and a lead, but came up empty in the closing minutes and finished with a season-high four interceptions. The Denver loss gave New England home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC.
The AFC West champions have concerns about Manning’s health. He was limited in practice by a strained right thigh.
Denver scored 21 points in the third quarter, with Manning throwing a pair of touchdowns to Emmanuel Sanders.
With a chance to pull off his 51st game-winning drive, Manning threw a sideline pass directly to Kirkpatrick, who ran it back untouched in the heavy rain.
Bengals 37, Broncos 28
Den—Talib 33 interception return (Barth kick)
Cin—Hill 85 run (Nugent kick)
Cin—FG Nugent 37
Cin—Gresham 2 pass from Dalton (Nugent kick)
Cin—FG Nugent 49
Den—Anderson 1 run (Barth kick)
Cin—Bernard 22 pass from Dalton (Nugent kick)
Den—Sanders 4 pass from Manning (Barth kick)
Den—Sanders 5 pass from Manning (Barth kick)
Cin—FG Nugent 23
Cin—Kirkpatrick 30 interception return (Nugent kick)
|Total Net Yards||385||353|
|Time of Poss.||28:22||31:38|
RUSHING—Denver, Anderson 18-83, Thompson 1-2. Cincinnati, Hill 22-147, Bernard 8-36, Dalton 6-25, Sanzenbacher 1-(minus 1).
PASSING—Denver, Manning 28-44-4-311. Cincinnati, Dalton 17-26-1-146.
RECEIVING—Denver, Anderson 8-55, D.Thomas 7-115, Sanders 6-70, Welker 4-30, J.Thomas 2-33, Tamme 1-8. Cincinnati, Gresham 9-62, Bernard 5-45, Sanu 1-16, Tate 1-12, Sanzenbacher 1-11.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Denver, Barth 49 (WL).
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