Manning leads Broncos over Chargers
The Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 28-20 Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, but the later stages of the victory came with some anxious moments.
Manning was hit in his right leg by defensive lineman Corey Liuget while completing a pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas with less than two minutes to play, and Manning was limping afterward. He didn't exit the game, but he did argue with officials when a penalty wasn't called.
Manning will undergo an MRI exam Monday morning on what is believed to be an injured right ankle.
Manning didn't clarify what happened or which body part was bothering him.
"I don't know," he said. "Somebody was around my feet, so I'll have to see the play. I'm pretty sore; he kind of got me twice."
Liuget stressed he wasn't trying to hurt Manning.
"He was trying to tell the ref something, but the center was on me and I tried to tackle him but I got tripped up and I fell into his leg," Liuget said. "It wasn't intentional at all, and I want to apologize to him."
Manning continued to build his candidacy for his fifth MVP award by throwing for four touchdowns and 330 yards. He completed 25 of 36 passes and was not intercepted. Three of Manning's touchdown passes went to Thomas (seven catches, 108 yards) as the tandem took turns exposing numerous San Diego defensive backs.
"If you look at every game, he is one of the best receivers in the league, without a doubt," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "He is a great player, but you got to do a better job on him."
The Chargers, trailing 28-6, rallied in the second half. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to running back Danny Woodhead, and running back Ryan Mathews added a 1-yard touchdown run to make it a one-possession game in the fourth quarter.
However, the Chargers (4-5) got no closer. Rivers finished 19 of 29 for 218 yards and a touchdown.
Denver (8-1) played without head coach John Fox, who underwent heart surgery last week. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio took over Fox's duties. The Broncos awarded Fox, who remains in North Carolina, a game ball.
"We look forward to giving it to him in person," Manning said.
The Chargers, who lost their second game in a row, countered the Broncos' touchdowns with field goals during the first half, but even that went haywire when Nick Novak missed a 37-yard attempt.
San Diego's lack of success deep in Denver territory was critical. The Chargers got inside the Denver 22-yard line three times in the first half and came away with six points.
"We had a chance there with a couple of them, and we knew how important it was this week to score touchdowns and not settle for field goals," Rivers said. "Eventually it caught up with us and that was the difference, those early drives. We would have been right there in better shape late in the game."
Just before halftime, Manning dissected the Chargers' defense, completing eight of nine passes while guiding the Broncos to the San Diego 7-yard line. Manning then found Thomas for the second of his two first-half touchdown catches with 13 seconds left in the quarter.
Manning froze the Chargers on a play-action fake, and Thomas beat cornerback Shareece Wright for the 7-yard scoring reception and a 21-6 Denver halftime lead.
After Manning's first touchdown pass, a 74-yarder to tight end Julius Thomas in the first quarter, the Chargers cut the lead to 7-3 when Novak kicked a 26-yard field goal to start the second quarter. Novak converted from 40 yards with nine minutes left in the half, making it 7-6.
Manning got the ball, and again worked fast. In just under 2:30, the Broncos went 80 yards on another scoring drive, this one capped by an 11-yard strike to Thomas for a 14-6 cushion.
"The tempo, we knew it would go fast," Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. "But we had a couple times where we didn't get lined up quick enough; we got it going in the second half. But credit to them because they made some plays up the field."
NOTES: Chargers OLB Jarret Johnson didn't play Sunday after aggravating a hamstring injury in practice leading up to the game. Johnson, who is tied for the team lead with three sacks, sat out for the third time in four games. ... Chargers C Nick Hardwick left the game in the third quarter with a neck injury. ... Broncos SS Duke Ihenacho (ankle) was inactive after being listed as questionable heading into the game. He was replaced by Mike Adams. ... Sunday's game was the Broncos' first of three against AFC West foes over the next four weeks. Denver plays twice against the Chiefs, first in Denver, then in Kansas City, with a visit to play the New England Patriots in between.