Manning won his 148th regular-season game to tie Elway for second on the all-time list for starting quarterbacks still 38 behind Brett Favre.
But this was a choppy day for quarterbacks.
Manning's final stats were decent enough 25 for 42 but he threw an interception that got returned for a touchdown by Eric Weddle to open the scoring and also got sacked in the end zone by Shaun Phillips for a safety, as the Denver offense didn't quite click the way it has in recent weeks.
Rivers also put up decent numbers 24 for 40 for 258 yards but all but 60 of the yards came after the Chargers (4-6) had fallen behind 24-9 midway through the third quarter.
Danario Alexander leapt over cornerback Chris Harris for a 21-yard touchdown to pull the Chargers within 30-23 with 1:24 left. But the Broncos recovered the onside kick. After a punt, Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil sacked Rivers to seal Denver's fifth straight win a streak that started Oct. 15 in San Diego, when Manning rallied Denver from 24-0 down for a 35-24 win. It was the first time a team had trailed by that much and gone on to win by double digits.
The Chargers have lost five of six and trail Denver (7-3) by three games, leaving coach Norv Turner's job security as a big topic of conversation in San Diego. Optimists will remember the Chargers overcame a three-game deficit to Denver over the last three weeks in 2008.
But that was well before either Manning or Miller arrived in Denver, and both are changing the equation for a franchise seeking its first Super Bowl in 14 years.
Manning now has 24 touchdown passes on the season and remained on pace for a 4,700-yard year.
Overshadowed by the quarterback's arrival has been the blossoming of the Broncos defense with Miller as the headliner.
Dumervil's late sack gave the Broncos four for the game and 35 for the season.
When Rivers completed a 15-yard pass to Malcom Floyd in the third quarter on third-and-10, it snapped a string of 26 straight holds for the Denver 'D' on third down, dating to the end of a win over Cincinnati two weeks ago.
Making teams one-dimensional is helping Miller the most. He now has eight sacks over the past four weeks and vaulted past Houston's J.J. Watt, who had one against Jacksonville on Sunday, for the league lead. Miller is getting plenty of practice on that sack dance he uses to celebrate. The second-year player brought a choreographer in at the start of the year and donates $1,000 to charity every time he does the dance.
Eds:Changed Time of Score on Manning-Thomas TD in 2q
San Diego 23, Denver 30
San Diego 7 0 9 7 23
Denver 0 17 7 6 30
SD • Weddle 23 interception return (Novak kick), 6:52.
Den • D.Thomas 13 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 13:00.
Den • FG Prater 19, 11:33.
Den • Stokley 31 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 1:44.
SD • Phillips safety, 12:48.
Den • Decker 20 pass from Manning (Prater kick), 7:23.
SD • Alexander 8 pass from Rivers (Novak kick), :58.
Den • FG Prater 30, 10:43.
Den • FG Prater 32, 4:14.
SD • Alexander 21 pass from Rivers (Novak kick), 1:24.
Attendance • 76,769.
First downs 13 21
Total Net Yards 277 386
Rushes-yards 23-53 25-133
Passing 224 253
Punt Returns 2-10 3-22
Kickoff Returns 1-16 1-18
Interceptions Ret. 1-23 2-25
Comp-Att-Int 24-40-2 25-42-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-34 3-17
Punts 10-49.3 5-50.4
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 10-65 4-30
Time of Possession 31:18 28:42
Rushing • San Diego, Mathews 15-47, Brown 4-9, Battle 4-(minus 3). Denver, McGahee 7-55, Hillman 12-43, Ball 6-35.
Passing • San Diego, Rivers 24-40-2-258. Denver, Manning 25-42-1-270.
Receiving • San Diego, Alexander 7-96, Floyd 4-67, Mathews 4-36, L.Green 3-25, Gates 2-17, Brown 2-6, Meachem 1-10, Battle 1-1. Denver, Stokley 4-55, Tamme 4-53, Dreessen 4-28, D.Thomas 3-42, Ball 3-21, Decker 2-23, Hillman 2-16, Willis 2-14, McGahee 1-18.
Missed Field Goals • Denver, Prater 55 (WL).