San Diego, CA
Veteran quarterback Peyton Manning engineered a second-half comeback from a 24-point deficit with three touchdown passes to help the Denver Broncos escape with a 35-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Monday Night Football at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Broncos have tied the team record for biggest comeback and became the fifth team in NFL history to overcome a 24-point halftime deficit and win. The victory vaulted the Broncos back to .500 with a 3-3 record, tying their victims atop the AFC West.
"There were no mystery words of wisdom at halftime. I think it was just guys knew how poorly we played in the first half and made a decision to play better in the second half, and they did," Broncos coach John Fox said.
Manning completed 24 for 30 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns and cornerbacks Chris Harris and Tony Carter returned an interception and fumble for touchdowns, respectively to spark the Broncos' resurgence in the second half.
"I thought the second half, everybody was accountable and was professional. We got back to the plan. We had 30 minutes and thought it was important to get off to a good start with that first drive," Manning said.
"I thought that was really key, putting that drive together and hitting DT on that touchdown. That sure set the tempo for the second half," added Manning, referring to his 29-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter that started the Broncos' 35-point attack.
The Chargers shut down Manning in the first half while counterpart Philip Rivers had the show all to himself. He staked San Diego to a 10-0 lead in the opening quarter with a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio Gates after a 32-yard field goal by Nick Novak.
The Chargers scored two more touchdowns in the second period when Quentin Jammer intercepted Manning's pass and returned it for an 80-yard touchdown.
Later, Rivers connected with an 11-yard touchdown throw to Gates to close the first half with a 24-0 advantage.
It was Manning's turn to shine in the second half, connecting with Thomas for a touchdown pass in the third period to put the Broncos on the board.
In the next play, Carter picked up Rivers' fumble after a strip-sack by defensive end Elvis Dumervil and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Chargers' lead to 24-14.
Manning opened the final period with a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Decker and completed the comeback with a 21-yard scoring pass to Brandon Stokey that gave the Broncos a 28-24 cushion.
Harris unleashed the knockout blow when he intercepted Rivers' pass and returned it for a 46-yard touchdown for the final score.
"We're going to fight every snap and compete for every snap. We've been getting interceptions all week, we're finally happy they came through in a game," said Harris.
Rivers completed 25 of 41 heaves for 242 yards and two touchdown passes to Gates but had four interceptions. Gates finished with 81 yards on six catches while Ryan Mathews rushed for 74 yards on 22 carries.
SI.com's Jim Trotter explains why fans should enjoy watching NFL legends like Peyton Manning while they're still playing at the top of their game
Appreciate our NFL legends while we can
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