Dexter McCluster’s 21-yard touchdown run in the first quarter stood up and Kyle Orton returned to Denver and helped the Kansas City Chiefs temporarily prevent the Broncos from clinching the AFC West title with a 7-3 victory on Sunday.
Denver, though, clinched the West several minutes later when the Oakland Raiders lost to the San Diego Chargers 38-26.
The Broncos (8-8), who are the No. 4 seed, will host No. 5 Pittsburgh on Sunday in a wild card playoff in their first postseason appearance since 2005.
Orton threw for 180 yards in his highly anticipated matchup against the Broncos. He exacted revenge from the team that replaced him with Tim Tebow after Week 5 and released him Nov. 22.
Tebow faced constant pressure and finished 6-of-22 passing for only 60 yards as the Chiefs' secondary smothered Denver’s receivers all game long. Tebow also rushed for only 16 yards and lost a fumble on one of the Broncos’ two trips into the red zone.
Willis McGahee rushed for 145 yards and the Broncos, who led the NFL with 161.1 entering Week 17, finished with 216.
Tebow had a last chance to engineer his seventh second-half comeback victory of the season, but was intercepted on 4th-and-2 at the Kansas City 43 by Brandon Carr with 8 seconds left.
Matt Prater kicked a 38-yard field goal with 8:11 left in the third quarter, three plays after the Chiefs’ Javier Arenas muffed a punt.
McCluster's first career rushing touchdown came with 11 seconds left in the opening period.
The Broncos moved to the Kansas City 15 midway through the second quarter, but the drive ended with Tebow’s fumble.