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Manning's 3 TD passes spur Broncos' comeback

Tuesday - 10/16/2012, 5:29am  ET

AP: e6558406-26c5-4d01-9c6c-b5305c2401fc
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning motions to teammates during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi )

By BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Down 24-0 at halftime, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos reveled after one of the biggest comebacks in NFL regular-season history.

On the flip side, the San Diego Chargers were saddled with an enormous collapse.

Manning threw three touchdown passes in the second half and Tony Carter and Chris Harris scored off turnovers by Philip Rivers as the Broncos overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to shock the Chargers 35-24 on Monday night.

Asked if he'd ever been a part of such a big comeback, Carter replied: "Only in Pop Warner football."

It took a quarterback of Manning's caliber to pull this one out.

"It sure was special considering what was on the line," said Manning, a Super Bowl winner and four-time NFL MVP who's in his first season with the Broncos.

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-biggest regular-season comeback in NFL history.

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. The four pickoffs and six turnovers were both career highs.

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.

"It's bad," San Diego linebacker Takeo Spikes said. "Every adjective you can come up with as far as disappointment, it covers it."

The Broncos seemed finished after an awful 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. Stokley outleaped defensive back Marcus Gilchrist to catch the ball, and then got both feet down before tumbling out of the end zone.

That score was set up by Carter's interception.

Harris sealed the victory with a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:05 left. It was his second pick of the game.

"This was as good a second half of football as I've been involved in," Broncos coach John Fox said.

As for Manning, "He's real high on my list," the coach said. "He performed very well and has performed well in the last four games. He's going to keep getting better and better."

Manning finished 24 of 30 for 309 yards with one interception.

"Regular-season game, I think this is the best," said Stokley, who was a teammate of Manning's with the Colts. "The second half was unbelievable. We needed to win big-time and to perform like he did, it was awesome."

Fox said there "were no mystery words of wisdom at halftime. "Given how poorly we played in the first half, we just said we could play better in the second half and we broke out of it."

Manning agreed.

"We came out in the second half, everybody was accountable and professional," he said. "We had 30 minutes and I thought it was important to get off to a good start with that first drive. Hitting DT for the touchdown really set the tempo for the second half."

Both teams head into their bye week.

"We feel fortunate to be tied for first place in our division at 3-3," Manning said. "It's going to be a competitive division down the stretch. There are some things we can improve on and we'll use the bye week to do that."

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