ARLINGTON, Texas --The Broncos faced their biggest test of the season Sunday at AT&T Stadium. And they passed.
Denver overcame an early 14-0 deficit -- and a 48-41 fourth-quarter deficit -- to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 51-48 and move to 5-0 on the season.
"I thought this was probably our best character victory as far as coming from behind," Head Coach John Fox said. "Everybody is against you, although I'll say there was a lot of orange in that stadium. I was a little bit surprised by that but that's a tribute to our fans and how we travel. It's tough to win in this league on the road. Very tough. We've gotten to 2-0 on the road and we count our blessings."
With 2:39 left in the game, Knowshon Moreno plunged into the end zone from a yard out to tie the game at 48-48, capping a nine-play, 73-yard drive.
On the first play of Dallas' ensuing drive, defensive end Shaun Phillips got to quarterback Tony Romo for Denver's fourth sack of the game. The next play proved to be the difference -- linebacker Danny Trevathan dove in front of a pass intended for tight end Gavin Escobar, coming away with a game-changing interception.
"I was baiting him but I saw (Derek) Wolfe rushing him and put his hands up," Trevathan said. "Romo threw it and I felt like, man, it's that time. Hopefully I don't drop the ball when I get in the end zone this time. But you know I fell to the ground, so forget it."
Denver took over at the Dallas 24-yard line with 1:57 left in the game and proceeded to move the ball all the way to the 1-yard line, running the clock out before trotting Matt Prater onto the field for a game-winning, 28-yard field goal.
Prater was three-for-three on the day, including a 50-yarder, and a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points.
"I go in expecting to make them all," Prater said. "I always have confidence in Britton (Colquitt) and Aaron (Brewer) doing their jobs, because we've all got to work together to be successful. It makes it a lot easier for me, having them."
It was the team's closest victory of the season and snapped a 15-game streak of wins by seven or more points.
But it was a win, nonetheless.
"A W is a W to us, and that's all we want to do," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "This one was tough. I feel like we'll have more tests this year. But that was a great test for us, we came up with the win and that's all that really matters."
Both offenses eclipsed the 500-yard mark, and Peyton Manning and Tony Romo dueled back and forth throughout the afternoon. Manning stretched his season total to 20 passing touchdowns before he threw his first interception of the year, which came late in the third quarter.
A rushing score gave Manning five total touchdowns Sunday. It was the fifth time in NFL history that a quarterback has thrown for 400 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for a touchdown -- Manning is the only signal caller to have done it twice.
Manning finished the day 33-of-42 for 414 yards, which meant he passed Dan Marino for the second-most passing yards in NFL history. He now has 61,371 in his career.
Romo, meanwhile, was 25-of-36 for 506 yards, five touchdowns and his late interception.
"It is hard to enjoy a touchdown drive when you feel like their offense is hot and you're going to have to go out there and do it again," Manning said. "We stayed focused on the sideline. Everybody was pretty determined to go out there and make some plays and keep moving the ball down the field."
The back-and-forth affair featured a grand total of one punt -- the Cowboys had the lone three-and-out of the game in the second quarter. Each team gave the ball up via one fumble and one interception. The rest of the possessions ended in scores.
The Cowboys kicked off the game with consecutive touchdowns. First, Romo found Dez Bryant for a 2-yard score and DeMarco Murray's 4-yard run made it 14-0. After Manning answered with a 4-yard touchdown strike to Julius Thomas, a 43-yard Dan Bailey field goal stretched Dallas' lead back to 17-7.
From there, it was Denver's turn for 21 unanswered points -- touchdowns by Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and Manning's rushing score. A 48-yard Bailey field goal just before halftime left Dallas within one possession, 28-20.
The scoring wasn't about to slow down in the second half. In fact, it sped up.
Wes Welker kicked off the festivities with a 2-yard touchdown. Romo answered by finding Terrance Williams for an 82-yard scoring strike. A 48-yard Prater field goal put Denver back up by 11, but consecutive touchdowns by Bryant and Jason Witten -- each featuring a two-point conversion attempt, only one of which was successful -- gave the Cowboys a three-point lead, their first since the first quarter.
Prater's 50-yard field goal tied the game at 41 points apiece in the fourth, but a 4-yard touchdown reception by Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley gave Dallas a seven-point lead with 7:19 to go in the game.
From there, it was Moreno's score, Trevathan's pick and Prater's game-winner that moved the Broncos to 5-0.
"I hope it does (mean something)," Manning said. "I've always believed in prior seasons that you could refer to an earlier game late in the season and say, 'Hey, remember in Dallas we were down? We can come back.' Remember the situation. Let's get the first down and not go out of bounds. We can learn from this situation and from this game and hopefully use it down the road to help us."