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Broncos haul in top seed in the AFC

The Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas had to really extend himself to bring down this touchdown pass from Peyton Manning.

garrett ellwood/Getty Images

The Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas had to really extend himself to bring down this touchdown pass from Peyton Manning.

DENVER — Peyton Manning figured one one-handed catch deserved another.

So, up the ladder he went — throwing the ball high in the back of the end zone to Demaryius Thomas.

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Thomas leaped and brought it down with his right hand, then got both feet down inside the line for a touchdown. With that, he joined Eric Decker in Denver’s one-handed-touchdown club Sunday and gave the Broncos some otherworldly highlights to go with their home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after a 38-3 runaway win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

‘‘They claim they can do that all the time,’’ said cornerback Champ Bailey, who got to watch the replays of both catches about a half-dozen times on the scoreboard. ‘‘They say they practice that. I don’t see it. But as long as they do it on Sunday, I’m all for it. Those are some great, hard-working boys and I expect nothing less.’’

Manning, in search of his fifth MVP award and, yes, a second Super Bowl title, finished 23 for 29 for 304 yards, three scores, and a 144.8 passer rating.

This was the second straight Sunday he used a gray-and-orange glove to prepare for the cold, playoff weather he could face at home the next two games.

‘‘I threw it OK today, I guess,’’ said Manning, who finished the season with 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, and a 105.8 passer rating, all second best in his 15-year career.

Thanks to Houston’s 28-16 loss to Indianapolis before the Broncos kicked off, Denver (13-3) will be the top seed for the sixth time. The Broncos made the Super Bowl four of the previous five times.

Though the Chiefs (2-14) gave the Broncos as tough a tussle as anyone during their 11-game winning streak — in a 17-9 loss last month — this wasn’t expected to be much of a game. It wasn’t.

On the touchdown to Decker, Manning slightly overthrew the pass but Decker brought the ball into his helmet with his left hand, had it pinball against his facemask twice, then cradled it with both hands as he was falling to the ground.

‘‘Peyton throws the ball up, giving us a chance to make a play. It’s our job to catch it,’’ Decker said.

The touchdown to the 6-foot-3-inch Thomas mirrored a TD pass Manning threw to Decker last week against Cleveland: high in the back of the end zone where only his receiver could catch it.

‘‘That was probably the limit right there,’’ Manning said. ‘‘But I’ve seen him in practice. It’s hard to throw it over his head, I’ll say that.’’

The Thomas touchdown made it 28-3 and the celebration was on. The only trip the Broncos will have to make on their road to a title would be to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. They’ll open the playoffs at home Jan. 12 against Baltimore, Cincinnati, or Manning’s old team, the Colts.

Coach John Fox, in search of his second trip to the Super Bowl, won his 100th career game. Thomas and linebacker Wesley Woodyard congratulated him with a big splash of orange Gatorade at the end.

‘‘It’s an accomplishment, but it’s something that was a lot of people’s work. It wasn’t one guy,’’ Fox said.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Chiefs, who finished with 119 yards of offense and wrapped up the first pick in next year’s draft.

Coach Romeo Crennel watched the game from the sideline, leaning on a crutch, after having his knee drained of fluid earlier in the week. Many expect him to be unemployed soon.

‘‘I told him it’s been a long one,’’ Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith said about his postgame conversation with Crennel. ‘‘Sorry it didn’t turn out the way [we wanted]. I have faith in you and that’s all that matters.”

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