Denver, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes, three to Demaryius Thomas and two during a fourth-quarter rally that lifted the Denver Broncos to a hard-earned 39-36 win over the Miami Dolphins in a key AFC clash.
The Broncos trailed a gritty Dolphins team for most of the game and were down 28-17 after three quarters, then erupted for 22 consecutive points in the fourth to regain sole possession of first place in the AFC West and bounce back from last week's startling 22-7 loss at St. Louis.
Manning hit Thomas and Wes Welker for touchdowns during the stretch, while C.J. Anderson had a go-ahead touchdown run with 5:01 left to highlight a career-high 167-yard, 27-carry performance.
"You have to earn them all. We definitely earned a victory against a good football team today," said Manning.
Thomas amassed 10 catches totaling 87 yards and Emmanuel Sanders snared nine Manning passes for 125 yards in the Broncos' eighth straight home victory. Manning finished a sharp 28-of-35 for 257 yards for Denver (8-3).
Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to put Miami (6-5) in position for the upset before Manning engineered his 41st career fourth-quarter comeback. The young quarterback completed 26-of-36 throws for 228 yards with a costly late interception that helped seal the outcome.
"As a competitor, you don't like to see it," Tannehill said. "We didn't score enough points in the second half."
Jarvis Landry hauled in two of Tannehill's scoring strikes and recorded seven catches for 50 yards.
Tannehill put together an outstanding first half to lead the Dolphins to a 21-17 lead at the break, then hit Landry on a slant route from five yards out late in the third quarter to put Denver in an 11-point hole entering the final period.
A Denver offense that was held scoreless in the third then get back on track, generating three consecutive touchdown drives to forge ahead for the first time on the day.
Anderson's 20-yard run on 4th-and-2 kept alive a series that ended with back- to-back catches from Thomas, the last a 5-yard score on a well-executed play fake from Manning with just over 14 minutes left. Manning and Sanders teamed up on the ensuing 2-point try to bring the Broncos within 28-25.
Denver's defense followed by coming up with a stop before Manning went back to work. Three more completions to Sanders got the Broncos inside the Miami 20, and Anderson powered up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown run shortly afterward to put the reigning AFC champs ahead with 5:01 remaining.
Landry had a Tannehill pass bounce off his hands on the subsequent possession, with Denver's T.J. Ward grabbing the deflection and racing 37 yards to the Dolphins' eight. The pivotal turnover led to Welker's 2-yard touchdown grab that staked the Broncos to a 39-28 advantage with 3:13 to go.
Aided by a unnecessary roughness penalty on Denver's Malik Jackson that tacked 15 yards onto Landry's chain-moving catch on 4th-and-2, the Dolphins inched closer with a 9-play, 84-yard drive capped by Tannehill's 1-yard, over-the- middle delivery to Landry with 1:34 left to play. When Lamar Miller was able to just get across on the 2-point attempt, Miami still had life after trimming the deficit to 39-36.
Anderson corralled Caleb Sturgis' onside kick, however, and the Broncos chewed off the remaining time to come away with the tough win.
An action-packed first half featured plenty of explosive plays from both sides, with the Dolphins grabbing a quick lead by putting together a 7-play, 80-yard opening possession that Daniel Thomas capped with a 3-yard touchdown run just over 3 1/2 minutes in.
Denver countered with a methodical 12-play series culminating in Brandon McManus' 38-yard field goal, but Miami found the end zone again following a trade of punts to increase its advantage.
After getting the ball back in Broncos' territory after a Denver three-and- out, the Dolphins moved inside the opposing 5-yard line on the strength of two strong runs from Miller and Mike Wallace's 10-yard catch. Tannehill capped the drive with a well-executed 1-yard run on a bootleg fake to give the Dolphins a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Manning answered by engineering an 11-play, 77-yard sequence in which he converted three third-down situations with completions -- two to Sanders and the last a 5-yard fingertip grab by Demaryius Thomas in the end zone on a crossing route.
Tannehill brought Miami right back down the field, however, making good on all six of his throws on a 10-play, 87-yard jaunt he concluded with a perfectly thrown ball that Wallace hauled in with a diving attempt for a 21-10 Dolphins' edge.
Wallace's 10-yard score came with 1:54 left in the half, more than enough time for Manning to get the Broncos back on the board. The five-time league MVP hit a wide-open Sanders for a 35-yard gain on 3rd-and-20, then connected again with Demaryius Thomas for a 14-yard touchdown with 12 seconds on the clock to cut Denver's deficit to 21-17.
The Broncos couldn't make any progress in the third quarter, however. McManus hit the upright on a 33-yard field goal attempt on the initial drive of the second half, and a fumbled punt by Isaiah Burse that the Dolphins recovered at the Denver 12 led to Landry's first touchdown catch.
Demaryius Thomas had a string of seven consecutive 100-yard receiving games end, one shy of Calvin Johnson's NFL record set in 2012 ... Manning has now thrown a touchdown pass in 50 straight games, becoming the third quarterback to reach the mark ... The Broncos outgained Miami by a 201-97 margin in rushing yards ... The Dolphins lost for only the second time in 18 games when Tannehill has a quarterback rating of 90 or better ... Denver tight end Julius Thomas, the NFL's leader with 12 touchdown catches, was inactive due to a sprained ankle ... Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib sat out the second half with a left hamstring injury ... Dolphins offensive tackle Juwan James left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder stinger.