49ers knock Broncos out of AFC playoffs

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DENVER (AP) – Joe Nedney and the San Francisco 49ers sent the Broncos packing and set off a celebration in Kansas City.

Nedney kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime as the Niners eliminated Denver from the playoffs with a stunning 26-23 victory Sunday.

All the Broncos (9-7) needed was a win over the double-digit underdog Niners (7-9) or even a tie to earn a spot in the playoffs but they couldn’t score on three trips inside the Niners 5 and blew an early 13-0 lead.

Champ Bailey returned his league-leading 10th interception for a 70-yard touchdown in the first half for Denver. San Francisco’s Walt Harris returned one of his three takeaways for a touchdown.

Both teams had to punt on their first possession of overtime. Needing only a tie to get a wild-card berth, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan chose not to run out the clock with seven minutes left in overtime but instead put the ball in the air behind a rookie Jay Cutler, who was knocked woozy and sidelined by a hard hit in the first half.

San Francisco got the ball back with 4:38 left and drove 42 yards to the Denver 18, where Nedney kicked his fourth field goal. As it sailed through the uprights, Denver safety John Lynch smashed his helmet on the grass, a crushing end to Denver’s dreams of a franchise-record fourth straight trip to the playoffs.

Frank Gore, the NFC’s starting Pro Bowl running back who led the conference in rushing and broke Garrison Hearst’s single-season franchise records for rushing and total yards, gained 153 yards on 31 carries and caught two more passes for 32 yards.

AP-ES-12-31-06 2014EST

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