San Diego, CA – Peyton Manning threw all three of his touchdown passes in the second half as the Denver Broncos overcame a sluggish start to rally for a 35-24 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Monday.
Manning completed 24-of-30 attempts for 309 yards and an interception for Denver (3-3), which won for the second time in three games and is now tied with San Diego for the top spot in the AFC West heading into its bye week.
Tony Carter and Chris Harris each scored a defensive touchdown, while Eric Decker caught six balls for 98 yards and a score in the victory.
"We feel fortunate to be tied for first place in our division at 3-3. It is going to be competitive division down the stretch and there are some things we need to get better at," Manning said. "We need to use this bye week to improve and still find a way to play a 60-minute game."
Philip Rivers went 25-for-41 trough the air for 242 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions and two fumbles for the Chargers (3-3), who dropped their second straight game and are also on a bye next week.
Antonio Gates finished with six receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns, while Ryan Mathews carried the ball 22 times for 74 yards and added four catches for 19 yards in defeat.
The Broncos received the ball to start the third quarter trailing, 24-0, and were able to get on the board with an 8-play, 85-yard drive that did not include a third down and was finished off with Demaryius Thomas' 29-yard touchdown catch.
After San Diego nearly turned the ball over on the ensuing possession when Randy McMichael fumbled on a short reception that was recovered by teammate Ronnie Brown at the Chargers' 35-yard line, Elvis Dumervil knocked the ball out of Rivers' hand during a sack three plays later and Carter returned it 65 yards for a score, bringing Denver within 24-14 with 4:41 left in the third.
The Broncos regained the ball at their own 45-yard line following a Chargers punt and Manning found Jacob Tamme for a 25-yard gain on a 3rd-and-16 to move the ball into San Diego territory before capping the 9-play trek by hitting Decker with a short pass to the right and the receiver muscled his way across the goal line for a 7-yard touchdown to make it a three-point contest with 13:33 remaining in the game.
Carter then made a leaping interception of a Rivers pass on San Diego's next touch and returned it 15 yards to give the ball back to Denver at midfield.
Manning took advantage of the favorable field position with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley on the right side of the end zone to go on top, 28-24.
The Chargers moved the ball to the Denver 41-yard line on their ensuing possession looking to regain the lead, but Rivers threw his third interception of the game as Harris made a diving grab of a pass over the middle to end the threat.
San Diego regained possession after forcing a Denver punt and advanced to its own 45-yard line, but Harris recorded his second straight interception by stepping in front of Eddie Royal and racing 46 yards down the right sideline for a score.
Rivers then had the ball slapped out of his hands by Dumervil on a 4th-and-16 at the San Diego 41-yard line with less than a minute left in the game and Denver was able to run out the remainder of the clock.
"There are a lot of people that are going to count us out. A lot of people are going to say we can't respond and can't come back from this," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "We played with great energy and that's not going to change."
San Diego struck first after Denver's Trindon Holliday muffed a punt and Dante Rosario recovered the loose ball at the Broncos' 17-yard line.
The Chargers would not record a first down, though, and were forced to settle for Nick Novak's 32-yard field goal with 8:59 left in the first quarter.
Omar Bolden then had the ensuing kickoff punched out of his hands by Darrell Stuckey and the Chargers took over at the Denver 19-yard line, resulting in Gates' 15-yard touchdown reception two plays later.
The Broncos seemed poised to cut into their deficit thanks to a turnover in the second quarter when Jim Leonard intercepted a Rivers pass and a 55-yard reception by Decker moved the ball to the San Diego 26-yard line.
But two plays later, Quentin Jammer intercepted a Manning pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown, making it a 17-0 game with 6:00 left in the half.
San Diego added to its lead following a Denver punt when a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-4 kept a drive alive before Rivers capped the 10-play, 66-yard march with an 11-yard strike over the middle to Gates to take a 24-0 lead into the break.
Jammer and Carter each recorded their first career touchdown ... Denver leads the all-time series between the teams, 56-48-1 ... Decker scored a touchdown for the third straight game ... Gates' 81 receiving yards gave him 8,007 for his career, surpassing Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome for the fourth most receiving yards by a tight end ... Broncos running back Willis McGahee had 56 yards on 17 carries and four catches for 42 yards in the game.