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Manning sets record, Broncos beat Bengals 31-23

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Manning sets record, Broncos beat Bengals 31-23

CINCINNATI (AP) Peyton Manning had no trouble clearing those two interceptions out of his head and leading a fourth-quarter comeback.

``I've been there before,'' the four-time MVP said.

And no one's ever been better at it.

Manning threw for a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter Sunday, rallying the Denver Broncos to a 31-23 victory that left him 8-0 against the Cincinnati Bengals, who couldn't hold on when they thought they might finally have him.

Instead, Manning led the 48th game-winning drive of his career, moving ahead of Dan Marino for the NFL record. He completed all six of his passes in the final quarter, when Denver (5-3) got a firsthand idea of how he responds to the biggest moments.

``He is special at it,'' coach John Fox said.

Especially when he's playing the Bengals (3-5), who have failed every time they've faced him. Manning threw three touchdown passes Sunday, giving him five games against Cincinnati with at least three TDs.

His two second-half interceptions - one in the end zone, both by cornerback Terence Newman - helped the Bengals pull ahead 20-17 early in the fourth quarter.

``That's not the scenario we wanted,'' Manning said. ``Anytime you're on the road and have a chance to put a team away, you want to do it. You don't want to give a team a little life, which is what we did.''

In the end, it didn't matter. Denver has outscored its opponents 103-23 in the final quarter, the biggest point differential in the league.

``There's no panic,'' receiver Brandon Stokley said. ``That's what this team is all about.''

Manning's 1-yard touchdown to tight end Joel Dreessen put Denver ahead. After Andy Dalton underthrew a pass that was picked off by Champ Bailey, Manning put it away with a 4-yard pass to Eric Decker with 3:36 left.

``He's a great competitor,'' Stokley said. ``He is who he is, and it's what I've seen from him for 14 years.''

Manning was 27 of 35 for 291 yards for a passer rating of 105.8. He came up 9 yards short of tying Steve Young's NFL record of five straight games with 300 yards and three touchdown passes.

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 Broncos also got a team-record 105-yard kickoff return from Trindon Holliday to open the second half.

``I think this team needs to go through different scenarios and have one of these tight second-half games,'' Manning said. ``The more you can go through it as a unit, the more you can draw on it later in the season. Anytime you can win going through those scenarios, that's a plus.''

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.

``Losing is bad,'' Lewis said. ``We've lost four games in a row and we have a hard road to go.''

His quarterback made the game-changing play. Trailing 24-20, the Bengals had two holding penalties and a false start that set up a third-and-25 at their own 18.

As he was about to get hit, Dalton 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.

``It's one of those where you take a shot with A.J. and either he's catching it or nobody's catching it,'' Dalton said. ``I had pressure in my face. I threw it and couldn't get enough on it - I was getting hit.''

The four-game losing streak leaves Cincinnati staring at another lost season.

``If we don't get those things corrected, it's going to be a long year,'' Newman said.

NOTES: Holliday's kickoff return was the longest allowed by Cincinnati. ... Broncos RG Chris Kuper hurt his left ankle late in the third quarter and had to be helped off the field. Fox said X-rays were negative, but more tests were needed. ... Decker became the fifth Bronco to catch a TD pass in five straight games. ... Bengals first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick was active for the first time and made his debut on the punt team. He hadn't played because of a knee injury during the summer. ... Green had a TD catch for the seventh straight game, the third-longest streak in team history.

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Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Three weeks removed from back surgery to take care of his nagging gluteal injury, Dwight Howard rejoined the Washington Wizards for their Tuesday night contest with the Atlanta Hawks inside State Farm Arena. 

"Physically, I'm a lot better than I was before the surgery. The nine games I played, I basically played on one leg. So, you know, I'm just happy that that's out the way and I can rehab and get ready for the second half of the season," Howard told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. 

During those nine games, the 33-year-old averaged 12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, while shooting over 62% from the floor. 

Howard is no stranger to back surgery. In 2012, the then Orlando Magic center underwent a procedure to repair a herniated disk which ended his season and took him out of Summer Olympics (London) participation. 

The veteran now deals with a slow recovery process before returning to basketball activities. 

Right now, the only I can do for rehab is just walk. Anybody who has had back surgery, they understand that. You know, for the first month and a half, you can't lift weights. You can't run. You can't do anything but basically walk. 

Howard plans to remain in Atlanta for rehab. Three weeks ago, Washington said it would re-evaluate Howard after two or three months. 

"Every day I try to sit down, and you know, spend at least an hour visualizing, you know, getting healthy, but also returning to the court."

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Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 118-110 on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. When the Wizards smashed the Lakers on Sunday night and John Wall dropped 40 points, the team's social media naysayers collectively yawned, 'Let's see them do the same against Atlanta on Tuesday.' Sure enough, those people were right.

Wall and the Wizards did not bring anything close to the same energy against Atlanta that they had vs. L.A. Because the Hawks are terrible, the Wizards were able to hang around until the fourth quarter, but Atlanta pulled away with 36 points in the final frame.

There was plenty not to like about this game from the Wizards' side of things. They shot just 33.3 percent from three (13-for-39) and missed 11 of their 36 free throw attempts.

Wall had one of his worst games. He shot just 33.3 percent from the field and went 3-for-11 from three to the tune of 15 points and six assists. He played only 26 minutes due to foul trouble.

It wasn't as lopsided as their worst defeats this season, but this ranks up there with some of the Wizards' most inexcusable losses of the year so far. Even after making trades to shuffle their bench and team chemistry, the results remain the same. They let a bad team sneak up on them once again.

2. Trevor Ariza made his debut and essentially picked up right where he left off in 2014. He ended up with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six steals, making a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor. His six steals tied a career-high.

Ariza went 4-for-11 from three with just about all of them on wide-open looks. Ariza was excellent  in his last tenure in D.C. at drifting away from the defense and making them pay from beyond the arc. Wall and Bradley Beal seemed to remember that, as they consistently found him for outside shots. 

The Wizards' overall defensive effort was up-and-down, as they allowed 35 points in the first quarter and 118 for the game. But Ariza was mostly not to blame, as he played smart and measured defense. With the exception of an early play where Kent Bazemore hit an open three, he did a good job closing out on perimeter shots.

The trade of Kelly Oubre Jr. for Ariza may ultimately prove short-sighted, and many fans seem to strongly disagree with the decision. But those are the things we should see over the course of the season that show why Ariza could be an upgrade in the short-term. He will play solid, structured defense with few mistakes or lapses in focus.

3. The fans who paid the price of admission in Atlanta to watch the referees go to work got their money's worth. It was hard to hear Steve Buckhantz with all the whistles.

Seriously, there were so many fouls. The two teams combined for 61 of them. Four Hawks players had four fouls or more and four Wizards players had five or more. That included Markieff Morris, who fouled out in only 17 minutes.

Even clean plays were fouls, like this one. Jeff Green got way up to deny Alex Len, only to have a foul called.

4. Otto Porter Jr. remains out with a right knee contusion, making this the fourth straight game he has missed. He hasn't missed five consecutive games since his rookie year.

With Porter out, head coach Scott Brooks rolled with Jeff Green to start alongside Ariza. Ariza is slated to be in the lineup moving forward, so that pushed out Satoransky, who had made eight straight starts.

Satoransky ended up playing mostly as a backup shooting guard with Sam Dekker at small forward. Chasson Randle, who was recently brought back on a non-guaranteed contract, backed up Wall at point guard. Though that may have had something to do with his defensive matchup on Trae Young, it was surprising.

Ian Mahinmi also got some burn after three straight DNP-CDs. That may have been due to the presence of Len, who is a lot to handle for small-ball fives.

Speaking of big men, Dwight Howard made an appearance on Tuesday. He didn't play, but sat on the bench with the team for the first time since his back surgery.

5. All of those lineup mentions should highlight one notable exclusion. That is Troy Brown Jr., who continues to be on the outside of the rotation looking in. Even with Porter out and Oubre now gone, Brown isn't in the mix.

Brown's inability to get playing time remains a head-scratcher. Yeah, he can't shoot, but he can do so many other things, things that the Wizards need. Whenever he gets spot minutes, he contributes with his passing, rebounding and defense. 

The fact he isn't playing a lot could be expected, as he was drafted outside the lottery by a deep, veteran team. But to not play at all, even when injuries pave the way? That's tough to understand.

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