Denver Broncos Stun San Diego Chargers 35-24 as Peyton Manning Shines

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos on an astounding comeback Monday night to defeat the San Diego Chargers, 35-24.

The comeback win gives Manning 47 for his career, tying him with Dan Marino for the most come-from-behind wins in NFL history. It was also the largest road comeback in league history and tied the largest comeback in Monday Night Football history, according to ESPN's broadcast.

Philip Rivers threw three second-half interceptions and fumbled twice, both after being sacked by Elvis Dumervil. Two of those turnovers resulted in touchdowns, playing a major part and contribution to Denver's 35 unanswered points.

It was a terrible and unprecedented night for Rivers, as SportsCenter highlights:

5 turnovers on the night for Philip Rivers.1st time in his career with 4 picks in a game.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 16, 2012

The game was a tale of two halves, with the first two quarters completely favoring the San Diego Chargers. Denver, meanwhile, coughed up two special-teams fumbles, putting them behind the eight-ball almost immediately.

Nick Novak started the first half's scoring with a 32-yard field goal at the 9:03 mark in the first quarter. The Chargers added to that margin with two Antonio Gates touchdowns and an 80-yard interception return by Quentin Jammer.

With a 24-0 lead at halftime, San Diego left Denver for dead, and it showed in the second half. The Chargers came out lackadaisical, allowing the Broncos to climb back into the game immediately with Manning's 29-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas less than five minutes into the third quarter.

It was easy to think Denver was done. Nothing went right for Manning's squad in the first half; I mean nothing:

Manning showed his trademark resiliency and mental toughness, despite facing the biggest halftime deficit of his career. Sports Illustrated writer Jim Trotter thought the Chargers could use some of Denver's toughness in the third quarter:

"call me, chargers." -- signed, mental toughness.

— Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter) October 16, 2012

That probably has something to do with Trotter's tweet at the end of the third quarter:

Chargers lead 24-14 after 3rd quarter. FYI: Broncos have outscored opponents 58-6 in 4thQ, while Chargers have been outscored 32-30.

— Jim Trotter (@SI_JimTrotter) October 16, 2012

That's exactly how it happened, too. Manning hit Eric Decker for a seven-yard score less than two minutes into the half, Tony Carter intercepted Philip Rivers and the Broncos took a 28-24 lead with an outstanding catch by Brandon Stokley from 21 yards out.

The game came down to Manning. The legendary quarterback finished 24-of-30 for 309 yards and three touchdowns. His counterpart, Rivers, tossed four interceptions, going 25-of-41 for 242 yards and two touchdowns otherwise.

Denver didn't receive a large contribution on the ground, with Willis McGahee only mustering 56 yards on 17 carries. However, that didn't stop Manning from demolishing the Chargers defense in the second half.

Helping him were the usual suspects. Decker and Stokley combined for 10 catches and 146 yards, with Thomas contributing his score to start the second half.

Rivers' six total turnovers completely negated Denver's early-game miscues, allowing the Broncos to lead an incredible comeback. According to SportsCenter, maybe we shouldn't call it a comeback at all:

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK!With that TD, Peyton Manning has completed 13 straight passes. DEN has scored 28 unanswered points, lead 28-24.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 16, 2012

San Diego received large contributions from Antonio Gates (six catches, 81 yards and two touchdowns), but its defense couldn't come up with key stops in the second half. Combine that with critical offensive mistakes, and you have the recipe for the perfect comeback.

With Monday night's win, the Broncos and Chargers are both 3-3. The victory gives Denver the inside edge in the AFC West standings so far, as both teams head into their Week 7 bye.