Broncos 28, Chargers 20
SAN DIEGO -- Whatever momentum the Denver Broncos had, they didn't lose it over their bye week.
That was evident Sunday as they beat the San Diego Chargers 28-20 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Denver's Peyton Manning continued to build his candidacy for his fifth MVP award as the quarterback threw for four touchdowns and 330 yards in the win over the Chargers.
Three of Manning's touchdown passes went to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas as the tandem took turns exposing numerous Chargers defensive backs.
The Chargers, trailing 28-6, rallied in the second half. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to running back Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews added a 1-yard run to make it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.
But the Chargers got no closer as Rivers finished 19 of 29 for 218 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers (4-5), who have lost two straight, were trading field goals to touchdowns with the Broncos (8-1) during the first half, but even that went haywire.
When Nick Novak missed a 37-yard attempt with 1:33 remaining in the half, Manning had enough time to get busy.
Manning dissected the Chargers' defense, completing 8 of 9 passes, in advancing to the Chargers' 7-yard line. The final chunk came when Manning found Thomas for the second of his two first-half touchdown catches with 13 seconds left in the quarter.
Manning froze the Chargers on a play-action, as cornerback Shareece Wright was beat by Thomas for the 7-yard scoring reception and a 21-6 Denver halftime lead.
After Manning's first touchdown pass, a 74-yarder to tight end Julius Thomas in the first quarter, the Chargers cut the lead to 7-3 when Novak kicked a 26-yard field goal to start the second quarter. Novak converted from 40 yards with nine minutes left in the half, making it 7-6.
But Manning got the ball, and again, went to work fast. In just under 2:30 Manning went 80 yards on another scoring drive, this one capped by an 11-yard strike to Thomas for a 14-6 cushion.
NOTES: Chargers OLB Jarret Johnson didn't play Sunday after aggravating a hamstring injury in practice leading up to the game. Johnson, who is tied for the team lead with three sacks, has missed three of the past four games. ... C Nick Hardwick left the game in the third quarter with a neck injury. ... Broncos SS Duke Ihenacho was inactive after being listed as questionable heading into the game. Ihenacho has been slowed by ankle injury. He was replaced by Mike Adams. ... Sunday's game was the Broncos' first of three against AFC West foes over the next four weeks. Denver has two games against the Chiefs, with a visit to New England in between.