Cincinnati — With everything on the line, the Bengals picked off Peyton Manning — twice, no less — and ran back into the 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 next 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 loss gave New England home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The AFC West champions failed in their attempt to clinch a first-round bye and came away with more questions about Manning, who was limited in practice during the week because of 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 in a heavy rain, Manning threw a sideline pass directly to Kirkpatrick, who ran it back untouched.
Manning finished 28 of 44 for 311 yards. He'd been 8-0 career against the Bengals with 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He nearly matched that total in one game.
Demaryius Thomas had seven catches for 115 yards, setting a club record with his ninth 100-yard game of the season.
Andy Dalton settled down after a huge early mistake — an overthrown pass that Aqib Talib returned for a touchdown — and rookie Jeremy Hill led a dominating running game that finished with 207 yards overall. Hill had an 85-yard touchdown run with 147 overall, going over 1,000 for the season.
It was a breakthrough for the Bengals, who had been blown out in their two prime-time games this season and came in 18-41 all-time at night. They have one more left in Pittsburgh next Sunday.
The dominant running game immensely helped Dalton, who is 3-6 all-time in prime time. He started badly again on Monday, overthrowing A.J. Green for an interception that Talib returned 33 yards for a touchdown. Dalton finished 17 of 26 for 146 yards with two touchdowns and the one interception.
Green was hit in the right upper arm on the interception and was in and out of the game the rest of the way. He was held without a catch for only the second time in his career.