ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The Broncos began the second quarter of their 2013 regular season by embarking upon one of the most thrilling contests of the year, outlasting the Cowboys 51-48 at AT&T Stadium. It was the second-consecutive game that the team cracked the 50-point mark and it moved the Broncos' season scoring total to 230 points after just five games. And while the team would fall for the first time of the regular season at Indianapolis in Week 7, Denver responded promptly with a dominant second-half performance in a 45-21 win over the Redskins the following Sunday, ultimately entering the bye week with a 7-1 record.
Broncos 51, Cowboys 48
How it happened:With a television audience of 28.3 million looking on, the Broncos and Cowboys did not disappoint, embarking on a thrilling shootout that featured 99 points and 1,039 combined yards of total offense. Trailing 48-41 with 7:19 to play, quarterback Peyton Manning and the offense embarked on a crucial nine-play, 73-yard drive – with Moreno's 1-yard plunge into the end zone with 2:39 to play providing the answer. With the game tied, linebacker Danny Trevathan dove in front of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's pass and intercepted the ball at the Dallas 24, putting the Broncos in position to win the game. Eight plays later, kicker Matt Prater sent a 28-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired, clinching the victory for the Broncos.
Key moment:Trevathan's interception was not only the key moment of the game – it was one of the most pivotal plays of the 2013 season. Not to be overlooked, however, was Manning's 16-yard strike to wide receiver Wes Welker on second-and-goal from the Dallas 17-yard-line during the previous drive. The pass set up running back Knowshon Moreno's game-tying touchdown and averted a potential third-and-long situation.
It was over when:Prater's field goal sailed through the uprights and the clock at AT&T Stadium read 0:00.
Key performer:Manning went 33-for-42 for 414 yards and four touchdowns, and the quarterback also scored his first rushing touchdown since 2008 on a 1-yard naked bootleg touchdown run in the second quarter. The quarterback was at his best when the game was on the line, completing all seven of his passing attempts on the Broncos' final two scoring drives.
Broncos 35, Jaguars 19
How it happened:The Broncos once again saved their best for the second half, using a trio of Moreno touchdowns to break open a tight game and put away the Jaguars. Although Jacksonville narrowed the score to 21-19 on a 5-yard touchdown scamper by running back Maurice Jones-Drew with 7:43 left in the third quarter, the Broncos answered definitively. Denver drove 80 yards in eight plays on the ensuing drive in just 3:43, capping the drive with an 8-yard Moreno score. The Broncos defense answered the bell in the fourth quarter, intercepting Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne twice and shutting out the Jaguars.
Key moment:On the series after the Broncos took a 28-19 lead, defensive end Malik Jackson announced his presence with authority on three consecutive plays. Jackson sacked Henne for a 7-yard loss on first down, then swallowed up Jones-Drew for a 1-yard loss on the next play – and then turned in a 5-yard sack of Henne on third down for an encore, ensuring that the Jaguars would not answer Denver's touchdown.
It was over when:Moreno scored his third touchdown of the day, a 3-yard plunge with 9:09 remaining that extended the Broncos lead to 16 and capped the game's scoring.
Key performer:When Moreno touched the ball in the red zone, he made it count. The running back scored on three of his 15 carries, finding the end zone on runs of 1, 8 and 3 yards. He also chipped in 62 receiving yards on seven catches, including a key 28-yard catch-and-run on third-and-20 on the Broncos' opening drive, keeping the offense on the field and leading to Manning's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas.
Colts 39, Broncos 33
How it happened:The Broncos fell into a 19-point hole twice – midway through the third quarter, and then early in the fourth after Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri hit a 52-yard field goal to put Indianapolis up 36-17 with 12:59 to play. Denver refused to go quietly into the night, however, as Manning and the offense stormed back with a three-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 31-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. On the ensuing possession, safety Duke Ihenacho recovered a Colts fumble at the Indianapolis 23, setting up the Broncos with excellent field position. The offense answered accordingly, as Moreno scored from 1-yard out, bringing the Broncos within 36-30 with 8:44 to play. However, a pair of late turnovers ultimately proved costly and Denver ran out of time in Indianapolis.
Key moment:While a strip-sack of Manning by Colts linebacker Robert Mathis that forced a safety and led to a 26-3 Indianapolis scoring run was pivotal, it was linebacker Pat Angerer's fourth-quarter interception of Manning – on a play where the quarterback was hit from behind as he released the pass – that ultimately proved to be the game's decisive play. The play set the Colts up in position for Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal with 5:57 to play, and the two-score deficit was too much for Denver to overcome.
It was over when:Prater's onside kick attempt with 12 seconds remaining was recovered by the Colts, ending hope of a last-second miracle.
Key performer:When the Broncos needed a spark in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Eric Decker provided it. Decker's 49-yard tipped reception on the series after the Colts took a 36-17 lead helped spark the Broncos' comeback effort – and that was hardly the wide receiver's only contribution. Decker caught eight passes for a career-high 150 yards and a touchdown.
Broncos 45, Redskins 21
How it happened:The Broncos erupted for 38 unanswered points in the second half – 31 of which came in the fourth quarter – erasing a 21-7 deficit and putting away the Redskins. The Broncos used a pair of fourth-down conversions, including Manning's 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joel Dreessen that tied the game at 21 with 14:56 left to play, and the quarterback threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Denver pounded Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III throughout the game – registering three sacks and 13 quarterback hits – and the pressure paid off in the fourth quarter, as the Broncos forced five turnovers, including two interceptions of Griffin III and two of his backup, Kirk Cousins.
Key moment:Trailing 21-7 midway through the third quarter and needing a spark, the Broncos opted to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Washington 20-yard line. With the stakes raised, Moreno stepped up with a critical 5-yard run that kept the drive alive. Three plays later, running back Montee Ball scored his first-career touchdown on a 4-yard run that brought the Broncos within 21-14 and ignited the second-half scoring.
It was over when:Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off Cousins and returned the interception 75 yards for a touchdown with 2:07 to play. The score capped the Broncos' scoring for the game and the first half of the season; Denver has outscored its opponents 208-107 in the second halves of games so far this season.
Key performer:Manning completed 30-of-44 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns – the quarterback's 87th career 300-yard passing game. Manning's three touchdown strikes in the fourth quarter ultimately helped make the difference in the game, as the quarterback recorded his 50th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, most in NFL history.