The Bengals intercepted Peyton Manning four times, including a 30-yard return for a touchdown by Dre Kirkpatrick with less than three minutes to play, as Cincinnati clinched a playoff berth with a 37-28 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night.
With the Broncos trailing 30-28 with 4:04 left to play, Manning took over at the Denver 20-yard line with an opportunity to lead yet another game-winning drive. Instead, Manning threw an awful pass while off-balance and without his feet set that floated into the flat into the waiting arms of Kirkpatrick, who returned the interception for the clinching score.
Manning just doesn’t have the arm strength anymore to make a throw while falling backward and without his feet set.
Denver drove 61 yards into Cincinnati territory before Kirkpatrick again intercepted Manning to seal the deal. It’s the sixth time in Manning’s career (including playoffs) he’s been intercepted four times in a game. Reggie Nelson and Adam Jones also picked off Manning for Cincinnati.
The New England Patriots also clinch home-field advantage in the AFC thanks to Denver’s loss.
Trailing 20-7 at halftime and being held to just 125 yards of offense in the first half, the Broncos scored a touchdown less than a minute into the second half thanks to a 77-yard kickoff return by Omar Bolden. The Bengals immediately responded with a touchdown of their own in less than two minutes set up by an 80-yard kickoff return by Adam Jones as the Bengals regained a 13-point cushion, 27-14, early in the third quarter.
Bolden helped jump-start the Broncos attack with a 77-yard kickoff return to start the second half to put Denver in scoring position. Three plays and a pass interference call later, C.J. Anderson punched the ball in the end zone from 1-yard out to pull the Broncos within a score early in the third quarter.
Jones then returned the ensuing kickoff to the Denver 27-yard line to put the Bengals in business. Three plays later, Andy Dalton dumped a pass off to Giovanni Bernard for a 22-yard touchdown to once again give Cincinnati a cushion to work with.
Manning hooked up with Emmanuel Sanders for a pair of touchdowns, a 4-yard and 5-yard score, respectively, to rally Denver to take the lead, 28-27, late in the third quarter. After being held to just 88 yards passing with an interception in the first half, Manning was better in the second half to get Denver back in the game.
Cincinnati once again grabbed the lead on a 23-yard Mike Nugent field goal with 7:49 left to play.
The Broncos had a chance to get out of poor field position but had a 27-yard pass from Manning to Demaryius Thomas nullified due to a facemask call on Thomas against Kirkpatrick. Manning was sacked on the next play and by Taylor Mays and Denver had to punt while pinned deep in their own territory.