For reasons good and bad, it may well have been the most memorable play halfway through the Denver Broncos season.
Broncos’ cornerback Bradley Roby returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown on an incredibly athletic play that was the difference in Denver leading the San Diego Chargers, 10-7 at halftime here Sunday at soon-to-be-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
It then became the most frightening play as during the return, Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was inadvertently blasted by Chargers running back Melvin Gordon. Phillips was standing on the sideline when the collision occurred, fell backward, was taken off the field in a backboard and cart, and then driven out of the stadium by ambulance to a local hospital for evaluation.
PHOTOS: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Phillips was alert and had movement in all extremities. Broncos linebackers coach Reggie Herring took over defensive play-calling duties, which made sense as one of his two inside linebackers -- Corey Nelson, who was starting his first game, or Todd Davis – had the speaker in their helmet so they could relay the call to their teammates.
Roby’s touchdown return started when he was first beaten on a crossing route by Chargers’ receiver Tyrell Williams. But Williams bobbled Rivers’ pass behind him and Roby, who was trailing by a step or so, twisted to nab it.
Roby then sped down the left sideline, outraced offensive tackle Joe Barksdale, who appeared to have the cornerback angled off, and Rivers, who also had the angle, for a touchdown.
The Broncos, trailing 7-3 and listless on offense at the time, were up 10-7 with 9:10 remaining in the second quarter.
From the sidelines, Phillips was watching Roby when he was rammed by Gordon. Gordon was pursuing Roby when he was blocked into the Broncos’ sideline.
Phillips was quickly attended to by the several members of the Broncos’ medical team. As he was getting carted off, Phillips made sure to move his feet and hands, waving the No. 1 sign with his right index finger to let people know he was relatively OK.
His wife Laurie accompanied him on his ambulance ride. It’s the third time in four games a Broncos player or coach has left the stadium by ambulance. Head coach Gary Kubiak was stricken with a complex migraine condition after the Broncos’ loss to Atlanta on Oct. 9. Left tackle Russell Okung was experiencing concussion-like symptoms after the Broncos loss to San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium on Oct. 13.
Phillips was also flown backwards on the sidelines during the Broncos’ playoff win in January against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Roby was the first-half hero as he was starting in place of star cornerback Aqib Talib, who was scratched because of a lower back injury.