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That one time Peyton Manning roared back to destroy the Chargers: Looking Back Broncos

Although many of the players involved in the Denver Broncos miracle comeback win over the San Diego Chargers in 2012 have long since moved on, the memories remain. Here's a look back at one of the greatest Broncos victories over the Chargers in the history of these two franchises.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I always say the game is over when one team's lead exceeds 30-points. Sure, the final score may end up being closer but more often than not the fat lady is wailing away while teams are ringing in the garbage-time touchdowns.

You can imagine how displeased most of Broncos Country was the night of October 15, 2012 when the Broncos were down by 24 points at halftime to Philip Rivers and the Chargers. The Peyton Manning experiment had just come to town, and the jury was still out as to whether he was even healthy enough to continue playing professional football. Recall that the Broncos were 2-3 at the time; facing losses to the Atlanta Falcons, Gary Kubiak's Houston Texans, and the New England Patriots, a pair of Broncos wins were hardly comforting being down by so much so soon.

Then, just like that, it changed. The offense and the defense started to click in a way unseen by Broncos Country in a long time. It was a run that started in the second half of a Monday Night Football game that ended up lasting the entire season. The Denver Broncos would not lose a regular season game for the rest of the 2012 season.

As MHR's Troy Huffors wrote (we'll be referencing this article from here on out) ---


What else can you say, really?

The Broncos smacked the Chargers with an embarrassing loss at Qualcomm Stadium last night. That was as satisfying a victory as I can remember. Instead of having a specific player outlined in a comeback like we did with "Tebow Time", this time the Broncos made the ultimate team effort. Tony Carter, Chris Harris, Elvis Dumervil, Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokley, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Jim Leonhard (among others) helped in the efforts.

Many would put this win squarely on the shoulders of Peyton Manning, but that's not fair to the rest of the team. The Broncos defense scored two touchdowns by themselves, one of which was a Chris Harris pick six that occurred on a late Chargers drive that could have retaken the lead for the Chargers.

Here are the highlights for your video enjoyment. Do note that these highlights feature the Broncos obliterating the Chargers, so your viewing is required.

It kills me to think of the defense that year. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil headlined a killer pass rush that we'd all hoped to see for years to come. Sadly, following the 2012 season, Dumervil's faxing skills weren't up to snuff and was released to later join the Baltimore Ravens... The very same team that would beat us in the playoffs that year.

Many have said that, before this year, this was the best defense during the Peyton Manning era. They've said that were it not for Rahim Moore's oopsie in the subzero playoff game that season that the Broncos would have surely beaten the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Sadly, we'll never know what could have been. All we know is that the Broncos bowed out of the 2012 season largely due to a single defining defensive failure, the optics of which still haunt me to this day.

Of course, this game wasn't without drama. You don't go down by 24 points at halftime by accident. It takes a call to Buffalo Wild Wings for that.


If yall didn't see, they had trip wire out there tonight. I reported it to the NFL so an investigation is pending. #humblingmoment

— Eric Decker (@EricDecker87) October 16, 2012

Yep, this was that game. A sure touchdown foiled by Eric Decker's clumsy feet. This wasn't the only time it happened to him either. I know at least one other time in a similar situation, Decker tackled himself instead of scoring. A Mile High Salute and a high-five to the person who can remind me what the other game was where this happened.

In 2014, Eric Decker signed a five-year $36.25 million contract with the New York Jets.

Anyways, apart from getting a win, the Broncos also shattered the psyche of the San Diego Chargers. Remember when the Broncos lost to the Raiders 59-14 a few years ago and it just seemed like there would never be another sunny day? That's what Charger fans feel like, this morning. Just click any article on Bolts from the Blue and you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about.

What incredible foresight Troy had following the game! This loss stung bad for the Chargers. This was the game before their 2012 bye and they had a good long time to marinate in it before resuming play against the Cleveland Browns. They would lose that game and every other one that season with just four exceptions. Since those articles on Bolts from the Blue are long since buried, allow me to link you a few.

San Diego Chargers Blow 24-0 Haltime Lead, Lose 35-24

Is Philip Rivers Turning Into Jay Cutler?

That Did Not Look Athletic: Week 6, Broncos at Chargers

I can't think of a more devastating way to lose a game than what happened to the Chargers last night. I really can't. I was really expecting a Denny Green "They are who we thought they were"" rant by Norv Turner. Norv didn't bite. That was my biggest let down of the night... besides the Trindon Holliday fumble, of course.

Oh Trindon Holliday. Broncos Country had such a love-hate relationship with you. Loved the long returns and touchdowns. Hated the constant fumbling. You've got to remember holding your breath every time you saw him back there. Really, every kick had the opportunity to be a 7-point swing in any direction. This was his first game after getting signed following his release from... Gary Kubiak's Texans. He fumbled the first time he touched the ball.

Holliday would stay for the rest of 2012 and 2013. He would then bounce around the league, joining the Giants, Buccaneers, 49ers, and was released from the Oakland Raiders earlier this year.

Mile High Salutes

In this section, I'm going to give Mile High Salutes to players that deserve it.

My first Mile High Salute goes to Robert Ayers. For as much angst as he gets around these parts for being a first round pick and not living up to expectations, he deserves a big salute for his game against the Chargers. Check the stat sheet and you'll see he was credited for one assist, but the reason he gets a Mile High Salute is because of a play that will never be on the stat sheet. As Elvis Dumervil forced a fumble midway through the third quarter, the ball landed on the ground a few feet in front of Philip Rivers and was in range of being recovered by anyone. Robert Ayers was still engaged by an offensive lineman, but he fell to his side and swatted the ball back towards Tony Carter for the scoop and score. Without that play, we likely wouldn't have the defensive touchdown, which could have done a number of things with the momentum of the game. Regardless, that was a huge play that would go unheralded, by many, but not by me. Great job, Robert!!!

Drafted by the Broncos in the 1st round of the 2009 draft, Robert Ayers played his last game with the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. In 2014, he joined the New York Giants where his season was cut short by a torn pectoral muscle. This season he's managed to stay healthy and has had an unimpressive showing with his new unimpressive team.

Tony Carter gets a Mile High Salute, for sure. I don't think I've ever seen Tony Carter play with that kind of confidence in an NFL game. At one point, I noted on twitter that they played Carter on an island for a few plays. How strange is that? Champ Bailey, a future Hall of Famer, is on one side of the field, but Tony Carter (playing for an injured Tracy Porter) is playing on an island? What a game! Tony played lights out, notching his first interception and scoring his first defensive touchdown on two separate plays in the same game. He almost had a second interception, later in the game, too.

Carter was undrafted out of college and signed with the Broncos in 2009. After spending a year in New England, he returned to Denver until the conclusion of the 2014 season. Like Trindon Holliday, Broncos fans had a love hate relationship with Carter. There were games like this one against the Chargers where he'd show up big and then there were games where he would give up big plays and commit costly penalties. Carter now plays for the Indianapolis Colts where he's appeared in three games, starting none of them.

Elvis Dumervil, you get a Mile High Salute, as well. There were people on MHR that doubted you, this season. People were starting to say that you "weren't worth the money" and junk like that. Last night, you proved those people wrong. It's like every time you play Philip Rivers you switch it into overdrive and knock that silly grin off his face. It's wonderful to watch. I can't even count the amount of times you were held in the first half, but it looks like you gradually wore the offensive line down so that their holds weren't forceful enough to keep you from forcing 2 fumbles. Great job, Doom. You're a beast of a human being. Keep it up.

Oh Doom... It kills us to think what could have been.

Chris Harris... you get a Mile High Salute and infinite gratitude. You had two interceptions of Philip Rivers, one of which went to the house to confirm the Broncos win. The first came when you jammed an Eddie Royal slant route and the second came when you jumped a flat route. Both of the interceptions were outstanding mental plays. Recognition like that comes from film study and practice. That doesn't just "happen". Last year, when you were the best tackler on the team, I knew it was just a matter of time before you put it all together and became an outstanding cover corner, as well. You're well on your way.

Chris Harris Jr. The man. The beast.

Chris Harris, Jr. The man. The beast. Harris was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2014 and has proven to be one of the most, if not the most, solid corners in the league. He may not get the credit that loudmouths like Revis and Sherman get, but that's probably for the best. I have a ton of respect for the guy because he lets his play speak for him. Harris signed a 5-year $42 million contract extension last year. It's worth noting that the Broncos traditionally don't negotiate during the season. Sure they don't, but if you're Chris Harris, they most certainly do. Thank goodness!

With that, I'm just going to give a Mile High Salute for the whole team. They all did it, together. They fought with resiliency and never let a huge deficit sway their belief. With a bye week ahead, I hope that these Broncos will stay hungry and hit it hard down the stretch.

2012 Outlook

I told you guys last week that this team would be just fine with a win over the Chargers. We're right on pace for my 11-5 prediction. I'm sticking by that prediction, although, I think the win total may even be increased if we can play like we did last night.

I'll leave you guys with a question.

Can you imagine if we played a full 60 minutes of football? I can... it would look a lot like the second half of last night's game.

As I said earlier, the Broncos didn't lose another game all season. Sadly, finishing 13-3 wasn't enough and the rest is history. This game against the San Diego Chargers proved to be the springboard to a great season that ended too soon. Here's hoping that with Osweiler, the Broncos defense, and some kicking and screaming that this season will end better than 2012 (and 2013) did.