SAN DIEGO — The Denver Broncos wiped out a 24-point halftime deficit and rallied for a 35-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers in an AFC clash Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
Three touchdown passes by Peyton Manning and two scores produced by the Broncos’ defense in the second half allowed Denver to earn a stunning win and tie the Chargers for first place in the division.
After failing to generate much offense in the first half, the Broncos came to life in a big way in the second. Manning guided them on an 85-yard drive in eight plays on the opening possession after intermission, when he hit wide receiver Demaryius Thomas on a 29-yard touchdown pass to cut San Diego’s lead to 24-7.
The Broncos (3-3) pulled to within 24-14 when San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who was sacked by Elvis Dumervil, fumbled and cornerback Tony Carter picked it up and raced 65 yards for a touchdown with 4:56 left in the third quarter.
Two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Manning gave the Broncos the lead. The first came early in the quarter, when Manning tossed a seven-yard pass to Eric Decker to cut San Diego’s lead to three. He followed that with a 21-yard strike to Brandon Stokley for a 28-24 advantage with 9:09 remaining in the quarter, as the home crowd sat stunned.
To seal it, cornerback Chris Harris returned an interception 46 yards for the final score with a little more than two minutes remaining. It completed an unlikely turnaround and sent the Chargers (3-3), who fell to the New Orleans Saints last week, to their second consecutive setback.
Manning completed 24 of 30 passes for three touchdowns and an interception. Rivers finished 25 of 41 with two touchdowns and four picks.
The Chargers dominated the first half, rolling to a 24-0 lead.
They took advantage of three first-half Denver turnovers to stake themselves to a big lead. The first turnover occurred when Trindon Holliday, who was claimed off waivers from the Houston Texans last week, muffed a Mike Schifres’ punt at the Denver 17. San Diego tight end Dante Rosario, who spent last season with the Broncos, recovered it.
The result was a 32-yard Nick Novak field goal for a 3-0 San Diego lead with 8:59 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Denver returner Omar Bolden fumbled at the Denver 19. Corey Lynch scooped it up for San Diego.
Two plays later, Rivers connected with tight end Antonio Gates on a 15-yard touchdown pass for a 10-0 Charger lead with 8:23 remaining in the quarter.
Manning was victimized in the second quarter, when cornerback Quentin Jammer intercepted his pass and bolted 80 yards for a score that gave the Chargers a 17-0 advantage with six minutes left in the half.
San Diego added another touchdown shortly before the half, as Rivers found Gates in the end zone again on an 11-yard pass with 29 seconds left. It capped a 66-yard drive in 10 plays.
Rivers completed 11 of 17 attempts for 131 yards and two scores in the first half, while Manning hit on 11 of 16 passes for 12 yards and an interception.
Gates finished the half with five receptions for 68 yards.
In the first quarter, the Chargers’ defense limited Manning and the Broncos to only 19 yards in offense compared to 101 yards overall for the Chargers. San Diego also dominated time of possession in the opening quarter by an 11:05 to 3:55 margin.
NOTES: Gates’ two first-half touchdown catches, giving him 78 overall, pulled him to within three of Lance Alworth’s club record of 81…This matchup was the 11th between the two clubs on Monday Night Football. The Chargers had won seven of the last 10, including three of the past four…The Broncos entered the game leading the all-time series 55-48-1…Broncos linebacker Von Miller entered the contest with a league-leading 12 tackles for losses. He recorded a career-high five in last week’s loss by the Broncos to the Patriots…Charger inactives: tackle Jared Gaither, kicker Nate Kaeding and cornerback Shareece Wright were among seven ruled out. Broncos inactives: Cornerback Tracy Porter and running back Knowshon Moreno headed the list of seven Broncos held out.