With the AFC Divisional Playoffs on the line, Peyton Manning turned to tight end Julius Thomas to move the chains and ice the 24-17 win for the Denver Broncos over the San Diego Chargers. The young pass-catching tight end has enjoyed a huge breakout season as he developed into a key piece of the passing offense for Denver this season. His emergence has helped the Broncos rewrite the history books for offensive production and will be the X-factor for Denver in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots.
Thomas led the Broncos in receiving against San Diego, catching six passes on seven targets for 76 yards. He was a consistent target for Manning in the passing game, converting on several key third downs to keep the chains moving. His biggest catches came late in the fourth quarter as the Broncos were nursing a 24-17 lead as he converted a pair of third downs, one a 3rd-and-18 and the other a 3rd-and-6, that allowed Denver to run out the clock and seal the win.
When the Broncos went to New England in Week 12 and lost 34-31 in overtime, Thomas was not on the field as he was nursing an injury. Without all their weapons available, Denver saw their 24-0 halftime lead melt away before ultimately losing in overtime. This time around, the Broncos will have home-field advantage and a 100 percent healthy Thomas at their disposal to provide Manning a consistent presence in the passing game down the middle of the field. Providing the presence between the numbers will make Denver even more dangerous this time around.
He was a huge piece of the win against San Diego in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. Can Julius Thomas follow that up with another big-time performance against the Pats in the AFC Championship?