Broncos 35

(3-3, 1-2 away)

Chargers 24

(3-3, 1-2 home)

Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

8:30 PM ET, October 15, 2012

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA 

1 2 3 4 T
DEN 0 0 14 2135
SD 10 14 0 024

Top Performers

Passing: P. Manning (DEN) - 309 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: R. Mathews (SD) - 22 CAR, 74 YDS

Receiving: E. Decker (DEN) - 6 REC, 98 YDS, 1 TD

Peyton Manning, Broncos score 35 unanswered to shock Chargers

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- It took a quarterback of Peyton Manning's caliber to pull off this kind of comeback.

After the Denver Broncos slogged through a nightmare of a first half, Manning showed that he's still one of the NFL's best.

Manning threw three touchdown passes in the second half and Tony Carter and Chris Harris scored off turnovers by Philip Rivers as the Broncos overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to shock the San Diego Chargers 35-24 on Monday night.

"It sure was special considering what was on the line," said Manning, a Super Bowl winner and four-time NFL MVP who's in his first season with the Broncos.

Manning was 13 of 14 for 167 yards in the second half for the Broncos (3-3) who tied the Chargers (3-3) atop the AFC West.

It tied for the fourth-biggest regular-season comeback in NFL history.

Manning had been 1-5 in his last six games against San Diego, all with Indianapolis.

Rivers was intercepted four times -- three in the fourth quarter -- and lost two fumbles. The four pickoffs and six turnovers were both career-highs.

A week earlier, the Chargers blew a 10-point lead in the third quarter in a 31-24 loss at New Orleans.

"When you lose it's rough, especially in a game where you had a big lead and so much at stake," Rivers said.

The Broncos seemed finished after an awful first half in which Manning served up an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown by Quentin Jammer and two special teams fumbles led to 10 points for the Chargers.

"I thought we had a good plan. It was so disappointing to have these special team mistakes," Manning said.

Manning began the comeback when he hit Demaryius Thomas on a 29-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second half.

On the ensuing San Diego possession, Elvis Dumervil stripped the ball from Rivers and Carter ran 65 yards for a touchdown, holding up the ball in celebration as he approached the end zone.

Denver then sacked Rivers to force a punt and Manning capped the next drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker to pull to 24-21.

Manning's 21-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley gave Denver its first lead of the game, 28-24 with 9:03 left. Stokley outleaped defensive back Marcus Gilchrist to catch the ball, and then got both feet down before tumbling out of the end zone.

That score was set up by Carter's interception.

Harris sealed the victory with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:05 left. It was his second pick of the game.

"This was as good a second half of football as I've been involved in," Broncos coach John Fox said.

As for Manning, "He's real high on my list," the coach said. "He performed very well and has performed well in the last four games. He's going to keep getting better and better."

Manning finished 24 of 30 for 309 yards with one interception.

"Regular-season game, I think this is the best," said Stokley, who was a teammate of Manning's with the Colts. "The second half was unbelievable. We needed to win big-time and to perform like he did, it was awesome."

Fox said there "were no mystery words of wisdom" at halftime. "Given how poorly we played in the first half, we just said we could play better in the second half and we broke out of it."

Manning agreed.

"We came out in the second half, everybody was accountable and professional," he said. "We had 30 minutes and I thought it was important to get off to a good start with that first drive. Hitting DT for the touchdown really set the tempo for the second half."

Jammer intercepted Manning and returned it 80 yards for his first career touchdown, and Antonio Gates caught his second TD pass of the game in the second quarter, extending the Chargers' lead to 24-0.

Before Jammer's TD, the Broncos appeared on their way to their first score of the game with Manning's 55-yard pass to a wide-open Decker. But Decker tripped himself at the Chargers' 40, got up and was tackled at the 30-yard line.

Manning clapped both hands to his helmet in disbelief, one of several times the star quarterback expressed frustration.

"A piece of grass made a nice tackle," Manning joked. "Those kind of plays happen. You do kind of wonder, is this not meant to happen? Obviously Decker was sick about it.

"It's about playing 60 minutes. There's no quit in this team," Manning said.

Three plays later, Manning threw a pass straight to Jammer.

Rivers was 25 of 41 for 242 yards.

"We've got to go play a complete game," San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "We've shown through three quarters of a game what we can do."

Game notes

Both teams are heading into their bye weeks. ... Gates had TD catches of 15 and 11 yards and Nick Novak kicked a 32-yard field goal for San Diego in the first half. ... Decker had six catches for 98 yards while Gates had six catches for 81 yards.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs1823
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays5272
Total Yards365307
Yards per play7.04.3
Total Drives1112
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs21

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

sdFG9:03Nick Novak 32 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 4 plays, 4 yds, 0:56
sdTD8:23Antonio Gates 15 Yard Pass From Philip Rivers (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 19 yds, 0:40
sdTD6:15Quentin Jammer 80 Yard Interception Return (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 69 yds, 2:41
sdTD0:29Antonio Gates 11 Yard Pass From Philip Rivers (Nick Novak Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 66 yds, 3:56
denTD11:02Demaryius Thomas 29 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 85 yds, 4:04
denTD4:56Tony Carter 65 Yard Fumble Return (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 50 yds, 6:15
denTD13:40Eric Decker 7 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 55 yds, 4:14
denTD9:09Brandon Stokley 21 Yard Pass From Peyton Manning (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 50 yds, 2:08
denTD2:15Chris Harris 46 Yard Interception Return (Matt Prater Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 31 yds, 1:47

Research Notes

NEXT LEVEL: The Broncos sent five or more pass rushers six times in the first half and Philip Rivers targeted Antonio Gates on four of those plays, resulting in three catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, Rivers did not target Gates when facing added pressure despite seeing it twice as much.
NEXT LEVEL: Peyton Manning and the Broncos turned it around in the second half against the Chargers. Manning had just one incompletion after halftime even though he aired it out more.
NEXT LEVEL: Peyton Manning was 4-of-4 for 130 yards and two touchdowns on throws more than 20 yards downfield, including three in the second half. Manning has four touchdowns on such passes this season, tied for second most in the NFL.
NEXT LEVEL: The Broncos defense was more aggressive in the second half, blitzing defensive backs three times as often as it did in the first half. Philip Rivers completed only two passes against defensive back pressure in the second half and turned the ball over three times.

ESPN Stats & Information