The Broncos had their faith in Peyton Manning, who would justify that faith with a second-half performance that reminded fans of his days in Indianapolis. Manning went 13-of-14 for 167 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.
But Denver's defense set the tone for the second-half comeback and won the game for the Denver Broncos.
Manning did his part by scoring in Denver's first possession. While it did dent San Diego's 24-0 lead, it shouldn't have been anything more than a Broncos score.
But the next Chargers possession saw the the beginning of the end, as Elvis Dumervil sacked Philip Rivers at the Broncos 35, forcing Rivers to fumble the ball. Tony Carter would recover the fumble (the first recovered fumble of the season for Denver) and return it 65 yards for a Broncos touchdown.
Just like that, it was 24-14, and we were only six minutes and 15 seconds of game time into the second half.
San Diego would go three-and-out on their next drive, with the big play coming on 3rd-and-5 on the Chargers' 27-yard line. Derek Wolfe would sack Rivers, forcing the Chargers to punt. The ensuing Broncos drive would lead to another Manning touchdown—his second of the game.
It was then 24-21 Chargers, and Denver's defense was far from over.
San Diego's next drive would see the Chargers gain yardage again. It looked like they would be able to at least get into Broncos territory and at least leave with some points. But Tony Carter would strike again, this time with an interception at midfield.
Denver's ensuing drive: Manning-to-Stokely and Denver takes a 28-24 lead.
San Diego would get two more chances with the ball when down by only one score. On the first drive since going down 28-24, Chris Harris would insert himself into the interception column with his first pick, coming at the Broncos 34-yard line. This again on a drive where the Chargers looked like they were moving the ball well and in position to take the lead back.
After the Broncos would punt, Denver's defense would make it's final big stand of the game. After moving up to their 41-yard line, Rivers would throw his third and final interception, the second to Chris Harris.
This time, however, Harris had nothing but green in front of him, as he scampered up the sidelines to score the game-sealing touchdown.
It was now 35-24, and Denver had clinched the game, possibly even the AFC West.
Manning is going to get the majority of the credit for Denver's triumph, while a lot of attention will be lavished on San Diego's collapse. But don't sell this Broncos defense short.
In the second half, the Broncos would shut San Diego out while forcing four turnovers. They sacked Rivers four times while intercepting him another three times. The Chargers could gain yards but would turn the ball over in four out of their six second-half possessions.
Blame a collapse all you want but give this defense credit. They knew what they had to do in the second half to win the game and did just that.
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