Oct 27, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen (81) reacts to his touchdown catch in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
KUSA - In two plays, the Washington Redskins defense got Peyton Manning to do three things: fumble the ball, get a penalty and throw an interception for a touchdown.
But even after that, the Denver Broncos quarterback rallied Denver for 38 unanswered points en route to a 45-21 victory Sunday against the visiting Washington Redskins.
After Washington scored two touchdowns in nine seconds to open the third quarter with a 21-7 lead, the Broncos scored two touchdowns in 37 seconds in the fourth quarter to take a 28-21 lead with 14:19 left in the game.
Denver tied the game at 21 on fourth-and-goal with tight end Joel Dreessen's first TD catch of the year to cap a 16-play, 83-yard drive. The 16 plays are the most in a Denver drive this season.
The Broncos held Washington to three-and-out on the ensuing drive. Then Sav Rocca shanked the punt 15 yards to set up Manning at the Washington 35-yard line.
Denver needed just one play as Knowshon Moreno went 35 yards on a screen pass to take a 28-21 lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
"Well, it's disappointing. There's no question, because you feel like you put your defense in a tough spot. Those guys had a great game plan and executed it and all of the sudden we're down 21-7," Manning said. "The defense had not given up 21 points, they'd give up I guess seven. The offense had really, we really put our team in a tough spot. You do feel - I don't think frustrated is the word. I think determined is the word, to overcome those mistakes. And you don't do it by pressing and forcing things, you do it by going about your business and doing your job. I thought we did that and that was good to see."
Denver held Washington to 266 total yards, well below their 415.8 yard per game average. The Broncos intercepted Robert Griffin III twice and two more on his backup, Kirk Cousins.
"Without a doubt that was our best defensive outing," Broncos coach John Fox said.
There were nine turnovers in the second half.
The Broncos had to settle for a 19-yard field goal after linebacker Von Miller sacked Robert Griffin III, who fumbled. Denver started at the Washington 24 yard line after Derek Wolfe's recovery - but staled at the 1-yard line. Matt Prater came out for the field goal and a 31-21 lead.
Tied 7-7 at halftime, Manning was sacked and lost a fumble at Denver's 19-yard line on the fifth play of the second half. He was called for holding during the scrum for the fumble. Washington took a 14-7 lead three plays later on Alfred Morris' 1-yard run.
On the ensuing drive, Manning was picked off on the first play by Washington DeAngelo Hall, who returned it 29 yards for a 21-7 lead just 3½ minutes into the second half. Hall had a line on the ball after Demaryius Thomas fell down on the play.
"I thought we had the momentum in that third quarter," Washington coach Mike Shanahan said. "We got a couple of turnovers, got up 21-7. ... I thought Denver did a great job of slowing us down offensively. We couldn't get much of a rhythm. We had a few turnovers in there. They kind of took control of the job."
Said Manning: "We put our defense in a tough spot with those back-to-back turnovers. ... There was no panic. No finger-pointing."
The Broncos' offense regained its identity to pull within 21-14 on the next drive as rookie Montee Ball scored his first NFL touchdown following the offensive line push on the 4-yard run. Ball had an NCAA-record 83 TDs at Wisconsin.
Manning finished the game 30-of-44 passing for 354 yards, four touchdown passes and three interceptions.
"It was like a blur," Hall said. "Someone asked me, `What went wrong, what happened?' To be brutally honest, I don't remember. I looked up one point, 21-7, felt good, everybody smiling. Turned around and it ... was 38-21."
The Broncos' defense capped the scoring with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's interception and 75-yard return late in the fourth quarter.
"People are going to find out Denver's defense is better than they think they are, what people think they are," Shanahan said. "I know statistically they're not what they were were a year ago, but they are a better football team than they are statistically at this point. They got it done and we didn't."
In a defensive first half, the Broncos gave up a big penalty on Washington's final drive. The Redskins started at their 5-yard line and looked to be over, but a Denver penalty for 12 men on the field - as the Redskins lined up for a field goal - kept it going. Washington scored on the next play when Griffin found Leonard Hankerson on a 7-yard pass play.
The Broncos moved a brisk 77 yards on their opening drive with Manning going 5-for-5 for 57 yards. It ended with Wes Welker's ninth TD catch of the season, which is a career season-best for Welker - and leads the NFL. The drive took just 3 minutes, 40 seconds.
In 14 seasons as the Broncos' head coach, Shanahan was 44-20 in the regular season at then-Invesco Field (39-9 at the old Mile High Stadium). He was 5-2 at home in the playoffs. He received a standing ovation during a short pregame tribute to the coach.
"I thought it was great," Shanahan said of the tribute. "Denver is just a classy place. It was nice of them to take the time to put something like that together. Great memories. Hopefully we can take some of those memories back to the fans in Washington like we did in Denver. That's what we're working for. Hopefully we can do that."
The Broncos (7-1) have a bye this week. They will practice Monday-Wednesday, and then have a four-day break. Denver next plays Nov. 10 at San Diego.
"I think the bye week is coming at good time," Manning said. "We've played eight physical games. ... A good mental recharge."
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