DENVER — Brandon McManus atoned for a bad miss of a potential winning field goal, kicking a 37-yarder in overtime as the Broncos beat the Bengals 20-17 Monday night to clinch a playoff berth.
The Bengals' ensuing drive ended when backup quarterback A.J. McCarron botched the snap. The ball was recovered by Denver linebacker DeMarcus Ware, setting off a celebration.
The Broncos, who reached the playoffs for the fifth straight season, are one game ahead of the Chiefs for the AFC West lead. The Bengals, who had already clinched the AFC North, blew a chance to catch the Patriots for the top record in the conference.
Brock Osweiler was 27-of-39 for 299 and a touchdown for Denver.
The Broncos had a chance to win at the end of regulation, driving 54 yards in seven plays to the Bengals 26. But McManus badly shanked a 45-yard field-goal attempt.
The Broncos, who hadn't scored in the second half in three straight games, nearly went scoreless in the first this time. They pulled within 14-3 on McManus' 23-yard field goal with 18 seconds left in the half.
Emmanuel Sanders 8-yard scoring reception from Osweiler pulled the Broncos within 14-10 in the third quarter, and C.J. Anderson put them ahead with a 39-yard burst for a score early in the fourth quarter.
Mike Nugent's 52-yard field goal tied it at 17 for the Bengals.
COACH DEFENDS KICK: Bill Belichick stood by his decision to kick off to start Sunday's overtime in New Jersey. The Jets scored quickly to win 26-20 and boost their playoff hopes. The loss deprived the Patriots of clinching the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. "I clearly thought that was our best opportunity, so that's why we did it," Belichick said. "Didn't like the way it worked out, but to me that was the right decision for our team at that time."
LYNCH HEALING: The Seahawks may be getting some good news with the potential return of running back Marshawn Lynch. Coach Pete Carroll indicated that Lynch could rejoin the team later this week but said his staff would have to "wait and see" whether Lynch can play at Arizona.
PED REPORT: Members of the Packers defense strongly denied any ties to performance-enhancing drugs after they were named in a report by Al Jazeera on doping. The report that aired Sunday was based on secret recordings of Charles Sly, a former intern at an Indianapolis anti-aging institute who now says he fabricated the allegations. The report named several athletes, including Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and three Green Bay defensive players: Clay Matthews, Gary Neal and Julius Peppers.
KELLY ENDORSES QB: Less than 48 hours after Sam Bradford said he wanted to be back with the Eagles, coach Chip Kelly said he wanted his quarterback to return. "I know where Sam stood the whole season, and I know we are on the same page in terms of where we are," Kelly said. "It's just we don't negotiate during the season with anybody."
BROWNS: Practice squad safety De'Ante "Pop" Saunders, who was arrested on Christmas along with linebacker Armonty Bryant after a traffic stop, was released. Saunders, 23, starred at DeLand High and played two seasons at Florida before transferring to Division I-AA Tennessee State.
CHARGERS: Safety Eric Weddle was fined $10,000 by the team for remaining on the sideline at halftime of a Dec. 20 home game to watch his daughter dance in a program sponsored by the team's cheerleaders, agent David Canter said.
RAIDERS: Fullback Marcel Reece was suspended four games without pay for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
TEXANS: Quarterback Brian Hoyer is in the last phase of the NFL's concussion protocol and will start Sunday against the Jaguars if he's cleared.