CINCINNATI – Peyton Manning had no trouble clearing those two interceptions out of his head and leading a fourth-quarter comeback.
"I've been there before," the four-time MVP said.
And no one's ever been better at it.
Manning threw for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter Sunday, rallying the Denver Broncos to a 31-23 victory that left him 8-0 against the Cincinnati Bengals, who couldn't hold on when they thought they might finally have him.
Instead, Manning led the 48th game-winning drive of his career, moving ahead of Dan Marino for the NFL record. He completed all six of his passes in the final quarter, when Denver (5-3) got a firsthand idea of how he responds to the biggest moments.
"He is special at it," coach John Fox said.
Especially when he's playing the Bengals (3-5), who have failed every time they've faced him. Manning threw three touchdown passes Sunday, giving him five games against Cincinnati with at least three TDs.
His two second-half interceptions — one in the end zone, both by cornerback Terence Newman — helped the Bengals pull ahead 20-17 early in the fourth quarter.
"That's not the scenario we wanted," Manning said. "Anytime you're on the road and have a chance to put a team away, you want to do it. You don't want to give a team a little life, which is what we did."
In the end, it didn't matter. Denver has outscored its opponents 103-23 in the final quarter, the biggest point differential in the league.
"There's no panic," receiver Brandon Stokley said. "That's what this team is all about."
Manning's 1-yard touchdown to tight end Joel Dreessen put Denver ahead. After Andy Dalton underthrew a pass that was picked off by Champ Bailey, Manning put it away with a 4-yard pass to Eric Decker with 3:36 left.
"He's a great competitor," Stokley said. "He is who he is, and it's what I've seen from him for 14 years."
Manning was 27 of 35 for 291 yards for a passer rating of 105.8. He came up 9 yards short of tying Steve Young's NFL record of five straight games with 300 yards and three touchdown passes.
After a neck injury threatened his career and ended his stay in Indianapolis, Manning has regained his touch with Denver. The Broncos have scored 37, 21, 35, 34 and 31 points in their past five games, winning four of them.
The Broncos also got a team-record 105-yard kickoff return from Trindon Holliday to open the second half.
"I think this team needs to go through different scenarios and have one of these tight second-half games," Manning said. "The more you can go through it as a unit, the more you can draw on it later in the season. Anytime you can win going through those scenarios, that's a plus."
The Bengals came out of their bye week with their season at a turning point. Coach Marvin Lewis went out of character and challenged Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga to become more vocal leaders, underscoring that things were slipping away.
"Losing is bad," Lewis said. "We've lost four games in a row and we have a hard road to go."
His quarterback made the game-changing play. Trailing 24-20, the Bengals had two holding penalties and a false start that set up a third-and-25 at their own 18.
As he was about to get hit, Dalton heaved a pass toward A.J. Green that was underthrown. Bailey intercepted at the Cincinnati 46-yard line, giving Dalton an interception in every game this season. The Broncos then put it away.
"It's one of those where you take a shot with A.J. and either he's catching it or nobody's catching it," Dalton said. "I had pressure in my face. I threw it and couldn't get enough on it — I was getting hit."
The four-game losing streak leaves Cincinnati staring at another lost season.
"If we don't get those things corrected, it's going to be a long year," Newman said.
NOTES: Holliday's kickoff return was the longest allowed by Cincinnati. ... Broncos RG Chris Kuper hurt his left ankle late in the third quarter and had to be helped off the field. Fox said X-rays were negative, but more tests were needed. ... Decker became the fifth Bronco to catch a TD pass in five straight games. ... Bengals first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick was active for the first time and made his debut on the punt team. He hadn't played because of a knee injury during the summer. ... Green had a TD catch for the seventh straight game, the third-longest streak in team history.
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