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 league MVP and one-time Super Bowl winner who’s in his first season with the Broncos.
Manning had been 1-5 in his prior 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 TD by Quentin Jammer and two special teams fumbles led to 10 points for the Chargers.
Before Jammer’s TD, the Broncos appeared on their way to their first score of the game with Manning’s 55-yard pass to a wide-open Decker. But Decker tripped himself at the Chargers’ 40, got up and was tackled at the 30-yard line.
“Those kind of plays happen,” Manning said. “You do kind of wonder, is this not meant to happen? Obviously Decker was sick about it.
“It’s about playing 60 minutes. There’s no quit in this team.”