Check out the action from the second half of Sunday's big win over the Chargers.
SAN DIEGO —** The Broncos' measured shift toward leaning on their run game has been well-documented, but it was arguably needed most during a game like Sunday's in San Diego with Peyton Manning battling flu-like symptoms and a nagging thigh injury.
While the passing offense turned in its third-most efficient performance of the season with an average gain of 9.8 yards per pass play, the rushing offense once again took the brunt of the load against a hungry Chargers defense trying to keep its playoff hopes alive.
In a game with plenty of necessary adjustments on both sides of the ball due to injuries, the running game kept with the same 'Next Man Up' mentality that's been a theme through the season while also receiving a bit of what we've become accustomed to seeing from C.J. Anderson.
Despite fighting through injury problems of his own, Anderson led the way with 85 yards on the ground, including three of the Broncos' four rushing first downs, along with one receiving first down, a key figure in helping the Broncos not only move the sticks, but chew up the clock and keep San Diego's defense on the field.
The Broncos depended on their rushing offense at season-high levels, running on about 63 percent of their plays.
"I think we just took what the defense gave us, and we just went out there and executed," Anderson said. "It's all about executing and winning one more rep than the other teams. That's what happened today."
Though he did take a few plays off after getting up slowly in the second quarter, Anderson returned on the same drive and the injury wasn't significant. And when Anderson needed the rest, backup running backs Juwan Thompson and Jeremy Stewart also combined for 30 rushing yards
"It's just adversity. It just shows the toughness of the individual," Anderson said of fighting past his bumps and bruises, slightly shrugging off what difficulty he faced. "We're all just going out there and fighting. I was trying to execute. At the end of the day, it's next man up, and you've got to make plays."
That was something that held true for the rest of the team, too, who needed the solid games they got from the depth on the roster. For the offense, specifically, Chris Clark moved into the lineup after left tackle Ryan Clady left with a thigh injury.
"Coach Fox says it all the time: 'Next man up.' And after last year, it really was a real situation for me," Clark said. "So becoming the backup guy, I just know, 'at any moment now.' So I'm going to prepare as if I'm starting. So when that happened, there was no sweat for me. I know what to do, I know my assignments, and it's time to get back on the horse. That's how I felt."
While running the ball was tough sledding at time, it was the backbone of the offense as the passing attack struck efficiently at opportune times during the afternoon.
Manning's play, dogged by flu-like symptoms and later a nagging thigh injury, was a call-back to the high-powered offensive output that was more common earlier in the season when the Broncos didn't run the ball as much. Manning averaged 11.3 yards per pass attempt, and half of those passing attempts went for first downs. In other words, only four out of his 14 completed passes did not move the chains.
Michael Jordan's flu game, it was not, but Manning's effort was nothing to sneeze at (pardon the pun).
"You can't ask for no better," Demaryius Thomas said of Manning's game. "If a man comes out and plays that sick and throwing up and all this other stuff, that's all you can ask for. He did great, if you ask me. We got the win and the game was manageable, we didn't turn the ball over."
And speaking of Thomas, he also had an outstanding game. After pushing through his own battle wounds suffered last week in practice on his ankle, he put up his eighth 100-yard game of the season, tying Rod Smith's franchise record for most in a season.
"I didn't even know I had what I had until I got into the locker room," Thomas said. "At the end of the day, it's a long season. Guys are beat up, ankle is beat up.
"All that really matters now is winning."
Check out the best action from the first half in San Diego.