The Browns are kicking themselves; Denver's Jason Elam just kicking
Denver appeared to be headed for another disappointing loss.
DENVER (AP) -- Jason Elam went through his pre-kick routine and focused on his mechanics, figuring it was the only way to keep from letting his nerves take over.
The jitters didn't go away, but he still came through when his team needed him most.
Elam hit a 36-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, then added a 25-yarder in overtime, leading Denver to a 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday that kept the Broncos in the lead for the final AFC playoff spot.
"I'm glad it went through," said Elam, who added a 51-yarder in the first half to become the first player in NFL history with 100 points in each of his first 11 seasons. "I get nervous on extra points in preseason games."
The Broncos (9-5) were fortunate to even get to that point.
Denver took a quick 10-0 lead, but couldn't get much else going to let another weak opponent stay in a game until late.
The Broncos eked out close wins against Pittsburgh and Detroit earlier in the season, but missed several early scoring opportunities in a 19-10 loss to Chicago on Nov. 23.
Denver appeared to be headed for another disappointing loss after Brett Conway hit a 48-yard field goal with 1:11 remaining, but Ashley Lelie made a leaping 46-yard grab at Cleveland's 17 to set up Elam's tying field goal.
"I'm most proud of the way the guys fought back when things didn't look very bright for us," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
The Broncos have won three straight and four of five to keep their lead over Miami for the final AFC wild card spot. Denver holds the tiebreaker over the Dolphins, who play host Philadelphia tonight.
Denver RB hurt
But the victory might have come with a price.
Running back Clinton Portis had to be helped off after spraining his right ankle and knee on the play before Elam's winning kick. He finished with 139 yards and two touchdowns, and was scheduled to have an MRI today.
"We're definitely concerned about CP," Broncos linebacker Al Wilson said.
The Browns (4-10) should have been an easy target for the Broncos, but they weren't ready to cooperate.
Cleveland has lost 12 players for the season and played Sunday's game with its seventh different offensive line combination, but wasn't ready to call it a season just yet. The Browns shut the Broncos down for more than two quarters, made Portis fight for every yard and gave themselves a chance late.
"To fight their guts the way they fought today and play every single play with the heart they played, they deserved a better fate," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "One of these days there will be a day that this character test and this hard work and this effort is going to pay off."
Cleveland had plenty of chances.
The Browns came back from their early deficit with Conway's 39-yard field goal and Tim Couch's 1-yard touchdown pass to Keith Heinrich on the final play of the first half.
Cleveland didn't fold
Denver seemed to be in control after Portis' 13-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and Couch's interception on the next play, but the Browns still weren't ready to fold.
Cleveland stopped Denver on its next drive, and Andre Davis followed with a difficult 35-yard touchdown catch over his shoulder to tie the game at 17 with just under eight minutes remaining.
"This team could have quit, but it says a lot for this team to come in and play hard against a playoff team," said Couch, who threw for 181 yards a week after replacing Kelly Holcomb against St. Louis. "We felt we had a chance to win the game, but in the end they made the plays to win."