SAN DIEGO — It took a quarterback the caliber of Peyton Manning to pull off this kind of comeback.
Manning threw three touchdown passes in the second half and Tony Carter and Chris Harris scored off turnovers by Philip Rivers as the Denver Broncos overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to stun the San Diego Chargers 35-24 on Monday night.
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-greatest regular-season comeback in NFL history.
"It sure was special considering what was on the line," said Manning, a four-time NFL MVP and one-time Super Bowl winner who's in his first season with the Broncos.
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. 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 a nightmarish 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.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company