The Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers met Monday night with first place in the AFC West on the line. What ensued was the wildest game of the 2012 season and one of the wildest in the storied history of Monday Night Football.
After falling behind 24-0 at halftime, the Broncos rallied in the second half, thanks in large part to their defense, for 35 unanswered points and a 35-24 victory.
It tied the largest comeback for a road team in NFL history.
More importantly, the Broncos evened their record at 3-3 and they picked up a huge win on the road within the division.
Here is a look at some of the winners and losers from Monday night. Although the Broncos had a disastrous first half, it was still tough to find many under performers on their side of the action.
The Running Game: To their credit, the Broncos tried to establish a running game, but they were highly unsuccessful. They ran the ball 22 times for 57 yards, a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. Willis McGahee had 17 carries for 56 yards as the team's featured runner and that isn't going to get the job done. Peyton Manning has been great, but he'll need some assistance from the backfield at some point this season.
Returners: On Wednesday, the Broncos signed Trindon Holliday, who had been cut a few days earlier by Houston. Holliday dazzled in the preseason with three returns for touchdowns, one kickoff return and two on punts.
However, that's about all the guy can do . He also has a problem with ball security, which is likely why the Texans let him go. That situation presented itself tonight as Holliday muffed a punt early in the first quarter of the game, which led to a Chargers field goal. The Broncos definitely need a spark in the return game, but this guy might be too much of a liability.
Omar Bolden wasn't much better. He allowed the ensuing kickoff to hit the ground before picking it up, running about two yards and then getting the ball slapped out. The Chargers recovered and this time Philip Rivers converted with a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates. This put the Broncos in an early hole. After the first quarter, Denver was down 10-0 and had only run eight offensive plays.
Eric Decker: Despite tripping over his own feet, on what would have been an easy 85-yard touchdown, Decker still finished with six catches for 98 yards and made an incredible effort to score early in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard pass from Manning to pull the Broncos to within three points.
Joel Dreessen: Dreessen provided a nice safety valve for Manning in this game, catching six passes for 57 yards. He wasn't the primary target on many of those plays, but out of his six receptions, three of them moved the chains for a first down. Dreessen ranked second on the team with seven targets ,while the other tight end, Jacob Tamme, only had two.
Tony Carter: Carter was given extended playing time Monday night and he made the most of it. Not only did he have four tackles, two passes defensed and an interception, he also made arguably the biggest play of the night. After Rivers was hit and stripped of the ball, several Broncos had a swipe at it. But Carter ran up and scooped the ball, running 65 yards for a score to bring Denver within 10. This was the play that changed the course of the game.
Chris Harris: Harris is becoming one of the better corners in the league, yet he's still not very well known. Perhaps more people will know him after tonight. Harris had two interceptions, with his second coming as Rivers was driving San Diego for a potential game winning touchdown. Harris stepped in front of a ball intended for former Bronco Eddie Royal and ran it back 46 yards for a touchdown, putting the final nail in the Chargers' coffin.
Broncos' Defense: Yes, they gave up 24 points in the first half, but special teams did them no favors by giving the Chargers some short fields. In the second half, they gave up nothing and forced five Chargers turnovers. Once they had the lead, they harassed Rivers in the backfield. Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller combined for three sacks.
Peyton Manning: We have to end it this way. Other than the interception he threw that Quentin Jammer ran back 80 yards for a San Diego touchdown, Manning made few mistakes.
He finished the night 24-30 for 309 yards, with three touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 129.0. Manning is having an excellent first season in Denver and he is starting to get more comfortable with his receivers (something that Bronco opponents won't be excited about).
The defense made the plays to get Denver back in the game, but Manning made some tremendous throws as well. His 29-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas for the Broncos' first score was a shot to the arm for Denver and with 9:03 to play in the game, he found Brandon Stokley in the end zone on a pass that very few quarterbacks are going to complete. That score put the Broncos ahead to stay, completing their unbelievable rally.
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