Manning Magic is about the only way to explain what happened last night in San Diego. If you didn’t believe in it Monday morning, you almost have to on Tuesday.
The Denver Broncos could not have possibly looked more inept in the first half. Two special team turnovers, a wide receiver tripping over a blade of grass on his way to a sure touchdown, an 80-yard pick six on the very next play. San Diego was playing well, but the reality is that Denver was beating themselves… badly.
Anything that could go wrong did go wrong. It looked like it was one of those nights for the seemingly hapless Broncos. They had gone down this road before – three times in this young season they were down big by half time. And three times, despite furious fourth quarter rallies, they had lost.
This time they were down 24-0 at half. It was over. The Broncos were going to lose, fall to 2-4 and probably not make the playoffs.
But then it happened. It’s still hard to fathom. Harry Potter must have been involved. There’s no question that Peyton Manning was.
The Broncos came out in the second half on fire. Peyton led the Broncos down the field and hit Demaryius Thomas for a 29-yard touchdown pass. It was a start. Maybe Denver could make the score respectable before the flight back and a long bye-week.
San Diego got the ball back. Elvis Dumervil stripped the ball from Philip Rivers. Tony Carter ran it back for a 65-yard touchdown. Interesting. 24-14 with lots of time left in the third quarter. The fans at Qualcomm Stadium were getting uneasy but there was still no way the Broncos could come all the way back. Could they?
In the next Charger possession, Rivers, who started to see intense pressure, especially from Dumervil and Von Miller, was sacked. Peyton got the ball back and threw a 7-yard touchdown to Eric Decker, who literally carried three Charger defenders into the end zone. This was the player who tripped over his own feet in the first half. What was going on?
The Chargers got the ball back and Rivers threw an interception to Carter, who was all over the field. Manning then hit Brandon Stokley on a beautiful 21-yard fade for a touchdown. 28-24 Broncos. 9:03 left in the fourth quarter. A miracle? Okay, maybe not a miracle, but about as much magic as a football game can have.
The Broncos would later intercept Rivers one last time and run the ball back for a 35-24 victory, but by then the game was over.
As marvelous as Manning and the Broncos defense played in the second half, the Chargers played just as poorly. This could be the game that sees these two teams heading in very different directions. The Chargers into a rebuilding mode and the Broncos deep into the playoffs.
Can you bet against Manning and his merry band of wizards? Sure, but it’s probably not a good idea.
By Jeff Quick
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