It was a tough defeat for the home side whose quarterback Tony Romo went from sublime to subdued at 48-48 when his late interception gave Denver back the ball at the Cowboys 24-yard line with less than two minutes left. Manning made sure to see out the clock by avoiding a touchdown and giving Matt Prater the chance to kick the winning score from the 28-yard line.
“I try to treat every kick the same,” Prater said. “My mindset all year has been that I go with the flow, and when you have the opportunity to make a kick, you make it — no matter the score.
“But it’s always good to kick one with the game on the line and help us come away with a win.”
Denver are now clear favourites to win the Super Bowl in February with Manning showing no signs of letting up on his remarkable return to form after a career-threatening neck injury.
Not only did the veteran quarterback run in for a rare touchdown of his own, he moved past Dan Marino in the all-time career passing yards list to go second overall with 61,371 yards.
Their divisional rivals in the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs, also boast a perfect 5-0 win-loss record after their 26-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans while NFC South leaders the New Orleans Saints added a fifth victory with quarterback Drew Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham pairing up to devastating effect once again in a 26-18 victory at the Chicago Bears.
The Seattle Seahawks fell to their first defeat of the season in an entertaining game at the fast-improving Indianapolis Colts whose fourth-quarter comeback, inspired by young quarterback Andrew Luck, culminated in a Donald Brown touchdown which secured a 34-28 victory.
“This is the most resilient team I’ve ever been around,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
“They’ve got more grit than anybody, any team I’ve been around.”
There was also a first defeat of the season for the New England Patriots whose injury-riddled attack finally relented, as the Pats succumbed to a 13-9 loss at the previously underachieving Cincinnati Bengals.
Incredibly, it was Tom Brady’s first game without a touchdown pass in 53 outings.
Meanwhile, the New York Giants continue their worst start in years, losing their fifth game of the season against arch-rivals, Philadelphia Eagles, a 36-21 defeat which has the 2011 Super Bowl champions facing a lost season.
“They’re very frustrated, very down,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
“They’ve worked very hard, built themselves up to a good approach, and then the frustration of not getting the win... they’re doing the best they can.”
Elsewhere, there were wins for the Green Bay Packers, St Louis, Baltimore, Arizona, San Francisco, Oakland and Cleveland.