Manning comes up for air in second half

AP Photo/Steven Senne

Peyton Manning leads the Broncos to 35 unanswered points in the second half after falling behind 24-0 at halftime.It was a tale of two halves in San Diego between Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning Monday. The San Diego Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead only to see the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points en route to tying the largest halftime deficit comeback win on Monday Night Football.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Broncos became the first team in NFL history to win by double digits after trailing by at least 24.

The Broncos have outscored their opponents 79-6 in the fourth quarter this season, which is best in the NFL.

Rivers was 11-17 for 131 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the first half for a total QBR of 47.7.

Monday Night's Total QBR

Manning threw for 142 yards and one interception before halftime leading to a 2.6 QBR. That interception, which was returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Quentin Jammer was one of three first-half turnovers by the Broncos.

The other two came on special teams in the first quarter after a muffed punt and a fumbled kickoff.

Elias also tells us the it was the first time a team lost a fumble on both a kickoff and punt runback in the first quarter of any game since the Philadelphia Eagles did so (in a 40–18 win, no less) against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 30, 2001.

The second half was completely opposite. Manning threw three touchdowns to three different receivers (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Brandon Stokley) and Rivers threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles.

Largest Halftime Deficits

In Win On Monday Night Football

Manning was no stranger to a three-touchdown deficit at halftime.

In 2003, his Indianapolis Colts trailed at the half by 21 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers only to come back and win 38-35 in overtime. That game was also on Monday Night Football. Monday’s halftime deficit was the largest Manning had ever overcome.

Manning had just one incompletion after halftime even though he aired it out more. He averaged 8.2 air yards per attempt in the second half compared to 5.2 in the first. It helped that his receivers didn’t drop any passes after halftime after dropping two in the first half.

Rivers connected with Antonio Gates twice for touchdowns in the first half, with the second making the score 24-0.

It was the 50th and 51st time the duo connected for touchdowns, the most in NFL history between a quarterback and tight end. Drew Bledsoe and Ben Coates are second with 45. However in the second half, Gates was nowhere to be found catching just one pass.

The Broncos sent five or more pass rushers six times in the first half and Rivers targeted Gates on four of those plays, resulting in three catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, Rivers did not target Gates when facing added pressure despite seeing it twice as much.

Including Monday, 443 teams in the Super Bowl era have led by 24-or-more points at the half. The Chargers became the fourth team to lose such a game.