By Sean Hartnett
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It was one of those games you had to see live. Highlights of last night’s “Monday Night Miracle” engineered by Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos over Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers only paints part of the picture.
Unless you’re a Chargers fan, you were in for a real treat if you hung around after San Diego took a commanding 24-0 lead into their locker room at halftime.
Plenty of East Coast viewers went to sleep, only to miss Manning pull off an all-time comeback as the Broncos marched to an improbable 35-24 victory. If you’re one of those people, I’m genuinely sorry that you missed seeing it live.
Only four teams have come back after being down this much at halftime, but the 2012 Denver Broncos became the first team in NFL history to win by double digits after trailing by 24.
On one side of the coin, Manning was at his very best. He threw three touchdowns in the second half and went 24-for-30 with 309 passing yards on Monday night. On the flip side — Philip Rivers fell apart at the seams by throwing three of his four interceptions in the fourth quarter. Rivers completely lost control of this game and the cat get out of the bag by allowing the Broncos to gain a 3-3 tie of the AFC West.
Manning was better than vintage form. This was Manning at his very best when his team desperately needed to make a statement after falling into a deep hole before halftime and the prospect of losing further ground in the AFC West race.
It was the coming together of a resurgent Broncos team that was pulling for each other.
“It was good to put it all together. Offense, defense… The sideline was as energetic as I’ve been around in awhile. That’s good team football right there,” Manning told reporters following the sensational Monday night victory.
On one sideline there was Manning — cheering on and supporting his teammates. His enthusiasm renewed by the fresh challenge of leading the Broncos back to the glory years seen in the twilight of John Elway’s career.
In a complete contrast on the opposite sideline was Rivers, who blew off Norv Turner on the sidelines and showed off his trademark sore loser body language. Chargers fans would probably feel more confident with Joan Rivers behind center.
While Rivers is known for meltdowns, this might be the most epic defeat of his nine-year NFL career. He was oblivious to the pressure around him and became a “turnover ATM.” That’s really the only way I can describe it. Rivers was handing out turnovers like a broken ATM machine spraying out cash.
As for Manning… did he ever regress in his career? The only thing that ever stopped this guy from playing at an All-Pro level was the multiple neck surgeries and spinal fusion surgery.
He’s been rebuilt and now he’s running like Steve Austin “The Six Million Dollar Man.” The five-year, $96 million dollar “gamble” made by Elway and the Broncos is turning out to be a very wise investment.
Here’s a few stats that may have sneaked up on you. Manning is second best among 2012 NFL leaders in yards (1,808) passing touchdowns (14) and quarterback rating (105.0). Only Tom Brady has thrown for more yards and Aaron Rodgers has thrown more touchdowns.
For selfish reasons, I always wanted to see Peyton Manning finish his career with the Indianapolis Colts. In my head, Manning was always one of those one-team guys who didn’t belong wearing another team’s laundry.
At first, it felt a little strange seeing Manning wearing the Broncos’ navy blue and orange uniforms. It was like he was borrowing one of Elway’s suits, but now — Manning has proven he’s fit to wear Elway’s sacred clothes.
Are Manning and the Broncos now in the AFC West driver’s seat? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.