KUSA - The Denver Broncos returned to their record-setting ways Sunday and held on for a 28-20 win at San Diego.
Peyton Manning is back on his touchdown-pass record to start the season. Receiver Demaryius Thomas tied a team record for TD receptions in a game. Tight end Julius Thomas was close to a record on his 74-yard TD catch.
Denver's 371 points are the most in NFL history, breaking the record of 358 by the 1950 L.A. Rams.
As well, it was win No. 300 for Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who becomes the first NFL owner to win 300 games in 30 years. Denver is 300-200-1 with Bowlen at the helm.
"We got this one for Foxy," interim head coach and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said of coach John Fox, who is recovering from open-heart surgery on Monday.
But more importantly, the Broncos' win to open the second half of the season makes next Sunday's game against AFC West-leading Kansas City even more important. The Broncos (8-1) play the Chiefs (9-0) at home in a Sunday night game, which will be live on 9NEWS.
"Thought we took control of the game early then closed it out the way we needed to," Del Rio said. "Not everything exactly how you like it, but I thought it was a good, gutty effort on the road and a good divisional win."
Denver didn't have the ball much against the Chargers, but they made quick work off San Diego's defense when they did. Denver's longest scoring drive was 3:26 when they took a 28-6 lead on Manning's third TD pass to Demaryius Thomas to open the second half.
"The main thing with me is not just one person is going to bring me down," Thomas said. "We did a couple of different things ... the main thing was just trying to get in the end zone."
But Denver struggled after that and went scoreless in four consecutive possessions as the Chargers challenged into the fourth quarter.
Manning, who was appeared to injure his right ankle or knee on the last drive but stayed in the game, got back on his record run of touchdown passes to start a season. He has 33 touchdown passes this season to tie the nine-game TD passing record, which was set by New England's Tom Brady in 2007.
After the game, Manning wound not discuss specifically what he injured on the second-down play, which secured the win when he completed a 9-yard pass to Thomas with 1:44 left in the game. Manning would only say it was "somewhere in that lower body area."
"I'm pretty sore, pretty sore. They kind of got me twice in that lower area. I felt better coming into the game after the bye week, but I'm pretty sore," Manning said. "I'll get an MRI tomorrow and I'll probably know a little more then."
He added he "certainly plans" on playing next week against the Chiefs. On the play he was injured, the Broncos were forced to take a timeout even after the Chargers had called timeout.
"I saw them call timeout, then was taking a moment to get it together then they stick us with the timeout," Manning said. "I don't like quarterbacks begging for hits. ... I was arguing over timeout from San Diego."
Manning finished the game 25-of-36 passing for 330 yards and four TD passes. It is his NFL-record 80th game with 300-plus yards passing.
Said Chargers end Corey Liuget, who hit Manning on that second-down play: "I was trying to get to him because I knew how critical it could be to us as a defense to get to him. I was just working it and trying to be the guy. I'm not sure how I caught him but I hope he is OK. It's not anything that is going to stop him from being Peyton Manning."
According to stats-monster Elias Sports Bureau, Manning now has an NFL-record 74 regular-season road wins, one more than Brett Favre.
But all was not perfect for Manning, who was sacked twice and lost a fumble when he was scrambling in the third quarter. The Chargers' recovered at Denver's 12-yard line and scored two plays later to pull within 28-13.
And as the Broncos' offense stalled in the second half, the Chargers pulled within 28-20 in the fourth quarter on Ryan Mathews' 1-yard run with 10:42 left in the game.
But, the Denver defense held the Chargers on a potential game-tying drive and forced San Diego to punt with 3½ minutes left in the game. Denver was able to run out the clock.
Manning said he talked to Fox on Saturday before boarding the plane for San Diego, and told the coach "not to yell at me during the game. It's not good for his blood pressure."
Denver's first three possessions to open the game totaled just 3 minutes, 39 seconds and resulted in one score. But the offense found its gear and scored twice before halftime to take a 21-6 lead. Denver had the ball for just 7:31 in the first half to the Chargers' 22:29.
"You don't really pay attention to that stuff during the game, but now that the game is over, yeah, we were out there for a while," Broncos end Derek Wolfe said. "I thought we did a good job of getting [Philip Rivers] off his spot and making him uncomfortable and finishing the play."
For the game the Chargers had the ball for 38:03 to the Broncos 21:57. Denver finished with 397 total yards, and San Diego had 329.
The Chargers' offense was the best defense to Manning as San Diego had 21 plays and held the ball for 14 minutes, 3 seconds in the first quarter. The Chargers' second possession went 14 plays, lasted 9:20 and end with a 26-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
But the Broncos didn't waste any time on their one possession of the first quarter, getting a touchdown on their third snap. Julius Thomas took a short pass 74 yards for a 7-0 lead with 9:31 left in the first half. It was Thomas' 10th TD catch of the season and stands as the second-longest TD pass by a Broncos tight end (Shannon Sharpe 82 yards in 2002 vs. Kansas City).
Denver had drives of five plays then a three-and-out before Manning gave Denver a 14-6 lead with 6:44 left the second quarter. Manning found Demaryius Thomas for an 11-yard pass play to cap the 80-yard, seven-play drive. Manning was 5-of-6 passing on the drive for 74 yards.
After San Diego kicker Nick Novak missed a 37-yard field-goal try with 1:43 left in the half, Manning drove the Broncos on another quick possession and again found Demaryius Thomas for a 7-yard TD with 13 seconds left before the break.
Denver plays host to the Chiefs next Sunday then again two weeks later (Dec. 1) at Kansas City.
"They have a lot of things going their way right now," Broncos receiver Wes Welker said of the Chiefs, who had a bye Sunday. "We've got to really hone in this week and have a great week of practice. We have to play physical, tough football."
The rest of Denver's division schedule includes at San Diego on a Thursday night (Dec. 12) and finishing the season Dec. 29 at Oakland.
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