Manning improved to 8-0 career against Cincinnati (3-5), which has lost four in a row for the first time in two years. This one didn't come quite so easily.
The four-time MVP threw a pair of interceptions one in the end zone that led to 10 points and a 20-17 Cincinnati lead early in the fourth quarter. That's the time when the Broncos (5-3) have been at their best.
The Broncos have outscored opponents 103-23 in the fourth quarter, best in the league.
Manning threw a 1-yard touchdown to tight end Joel Dreessen that put Denver back ahead. After Andy Dalton underthrew a pass under pressure that was picked off by Champ Bailey, Manning put it away with a 4-yard pass to Eric Decker with 3:36 left.
Manning was 27 of 35 for 291 yards for a passer rating of 105.8. He has thrown for at least three touchdowns in five of his career games against Cincinnati. He came up 9 yards short of tying Steve Young's NFL record of five straight games with 300 yards and three TDs passing.
After a neck injury threatened his career and ended his stay in Indianapolis, Manning has regained his touch with Denver. The Broncos have scored 37, 21, 35, 34 and 31 points in their past five games, winning four of them.
The Bengals came out of their bye week with their season at a turning point. Coach Marvin Lewis went out of character and challenged Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga to become more vocal leaders, underscoring that things were slipping away.
Dalton made the game-clinching mistake.
Trailing 24-20, the Bengals had two holding penalties and a false start that set up a third-and-25. As he was about to get hit, heaved a pass toward A.J. Green that was underthrown. Bailey intercepted at the Cincinnati 46-yard line, giving Dalton an interception in every game this season.
The Broncos then put it away with Manning's third TD pass.
Dalton was under heavy pressure much of the game and finished 26 of 42 for 299 yards with five sacks, one touchdown and the decisive interception. He had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Green, who has caught one in seven straight games. It's the third-longest such streak in club history.
Up 10-3 at halftime, the Broncos got a boost when Holliday took the kickoff and ran down the middle of the field for the longest return in Denver history. It also matched the longest given up by Cincinnati.
Denver 31, Cincinnati 23
Denver 3 7 7 14 31
Cincinnati 0 3 10 10 23
Den • FG Prater 43, 7:55.
Cin • FG Nugent 28, 14:12.
Den • Decker 13 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 10:15.
Den • Holliday 105 kickoff return (Prater kick), 14:49.
Cin • Green 10 pass from Dalton (Nugent kick), 11:33.
Cin • FG Nugent 49, 1:17.
Cin • Green-Ellis 2 run (Nugent kick), 14:10.
Den • Dreessen 1 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 11:47.
Den • Decker 4 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 3:36.
Cin • FG Nugent 41, :52.
Attendance • 63,623.
First downs 20 22
Total Net Yards 359 366
Rushes-yards 26-68 25-91
Passing 291 275
Punt Returns 2-2 3-(-1)
Kickoff Returns 3-119 4-114
Interceptions Ret. 1-0 2-0
Comp-Att-Int 27-35-2 26-42-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 0-0 5-24
Punts 3-46.7 4-51.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-29 8-83
Time of Possession 30:37 29:23
Rushing • Denver, McGahee 23-66, Hillman 1-4, Manning 2-(minus 2). Cincinnati, Green-Ellis 17-56, Dalton 2-16, Leonard 4-15, Green 1-6, Hawkins 1-(minus 2).
Passing • Denver, Manning 27-35-2-291. Cincinnati, Dalton 26-42-1-299.
Receiving • Denver, Decker 8-99, D.Thomas 6-77, Dreessen 4-38, Stokley 3-43, Tamme 3-18, Ball 1-7, Hillman 1-5, McGahee 1-4. Cincinnati, Green 7-99, Gresham 6-108, Hawkins 4-32, Leonard 3-13, Sanu 2-29, Green-Ellis 2-(minus 3), Tate 1-17, Charles 1-4.
Missed Field Goals • Cincinnati, Nugent 46 (WR).