CINCINNATI — Despite throwing 2 interceptions in the third quarter and turning a 17-3 lead into a 20-17 deficit, Peyton Manning was once again Peyton Manning, maintaining his composure and throwing two 4th quarter touchdowns in the Broncos 31-23 win over the very determined Cincinnati Bengals.
The win was the Broncos third in a row (5-3), and gives them a one-game lead over the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.
In a very evenly played game, neither team could pass the 100 yard mark on the ground. Willis McGahee held to 20 yards in the first half, and finished with just 66 yards on 23 carries.
After exchanging field goals, Manning tossed a 13-yard TD pass to Eric Decker for a 10-3 halftime lead. It was Decker’s 5th game in a row with a touchdown catch.
The Broncos extended their lead at the start of the second half when Trindon Holliday set a team record with a 105-yard return for a TD, and a 17-3 lead.
But the Bengals came storming back with three consecutive scores, a Dalton 10-yard TD pass to A.J. Green, a Mike Nugent 49-yard field goal, and a 2-yard run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis at the start of the third quarter, putting them at a 20-17 lead.
The Broncos regained the lead when Manning passed to Joel Dreessen for a one-yard TD. A key interception by Champ Bailey stopped a Bengals drive and Manning passed for his 3rd TD of the day with a 4-yard toss to Eric Decker.
The Bengals kicked a 41-yard field goal with 52 seconds left to make 31-23, but the on-side kick attempt was recovered by the Broncos who ran out the clock.
Von Miller had 3 sacks and Elvis Dumervil had one, as did Danny Trevathan.
Manning finished the game with 27 completions in 35 attempts for 291 yards, 3 TD’s, and 2 INT’s.
He missed by just 9 yards tying Steve Young as the only quarterbacks to pass for 3 touchdowns and 300 yards in 5 consecutive games.
Right guard Chris Kuper left the game and did not return with what appeared to be a serious left ankle injury. X-rays indicate that it was just a sprain, but he may miss several games.
The Broncos play again next Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, who defeated the Washington Redskins today 21-3.