Peyton Manning has been here before. Trailing in the fourth quarter and engineering a comeback victory is nothing new, but given everything he’s been through and his complete absence from the NFL in 2011, there was more than a moment of doubt among those watching the “Monday Night Football” game between the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers.
There shouldn’t have been.
Behind Manning, the Broncos erased a 24-point deficit, capitalizing on Chargers turnovers, and scored 35 points in the second half for a 35-24 victory. The game-winning, fourth-quarter drive was the 47th of Manning’s career, tying Dan Marino for the most in NFL history (via the Denver Post’s Mike Klis).
“Well, we have been there before, unfortunately”, Manning told Lisa Salters after the game. “It was not the start that we wanted — once again we had those self-inflicted wounds that put us in a hole. But we have shown the ability to come back, and offense and defense really did it together there in the second half. We had a great first drive and our defense got us some turnovers.”
While Manning was pretty blase about the accomplishment, his teammates were not. “I’m in shock right now that we just did that,” defensive tackle Justin Bannan said (via Klis). “I’m just glad I was part of it. That’s one you will remember forever.”
It was positively Eli-esque.
Tight end Joel Dreessen was similarly gobsmacked. “I’ve never been part of a comeback like that. Peyton, that guy is so humble. I tried to get him fired up about this. I was shaking him, and saying, ‘What do you think about this, man?’ All he said was, ‘Good job. Good job.'”
Manning completed 24-of-30 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns, along with an interception. He hit a wide-open Eric Decker with a 55-yard pass that would have gone for a touchdown had Decker not stumbled over … nothing. (See it here.) The drive ended with an interception return for a touchdown, but afterward, in the glow of victory, everyone could joke about the puzzling drop. “That guy made a great tackle, I mean the piece of grass made a great tackle,” Manning joked.
“Sniper shot,” Decker, in an ESPN interview, said. “… I don’t know what I did. I tripped myself.”
The victory left the Broncos and Chargers in a tie atop the AFC West with 3-3 records and goes down as Manning’s first certified legendary moment with his new team.
“You never can count that guy out,” Brandon Stokley said. “I’ve seen it too many times. Everybody in this locker room knows, and we all believe that when you have him behind the center we can come back from any deficit.”
This could be the sure-fire cure for Tebowmania.