KANSAS CITY, Mo. --Nearly four weeks ago, the Broncos' head coach underwent heart surgery.
It was unclear how long John Fox would be away from the team, and under those uncertain circumstances, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio was asked to take over as interim head coach.
"He was amazing," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "He stepped in, he didn't blink, put us in position to be successful. He has a great demeanor. He controls the room very well. His biggest thing is making sure we have fun and that we're playing fast and we're not worried about making mistakes. I think that showed a lot tonight, guys stepping in at the right time and making big plays."
Sunday's 35-28 win against the Kansas City Chiefs gave Del Rio a 3-1 mark in his tenure as interim head coach.
"We were an eyelash away from getting all four of them," Del Rio said, referring to last week's overtime loss to the New England Patriots. "I'm proud of the effort that our guys all gave – that we all gave for
each other. I think that's really what this was about. I think what we went through the last month is really playoff level football and I think that's great experience for this football team as we go into the fourth quarter of the season."
The four games in that stretch included a trip to San Diego, a home matchup with the then-undefeated Chiefs, a road game in New England and Sunday's rematch with Kansas City.
Quarterback Peyton Manning said Del Rio was crucial throughout the past month as the team faced a type of adversity no team expects at the onset of a season.
"You never expect your head coach not to be with you the entire time, but Coach Del Rio has done a good job keeping us together," Manning said. "Probably had a pretty tough four-game stretch that he had to endure, and the team responded."
In the visitor's locker room at Arrowhead Stadium, Del Rio was congratulating the team on the win when Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway stepped in.
Holding the game ball, Elway nodded toward Del Rio.
"Here's to the guy that had to step in on real short notice, and he did a hell of a job," Elway said. "Game ball goes to Jack Del Rio."
Del Rio said afterward that it was a "special" moment for him. But he was quick to defer the credit to the entire team.
"Well, like I said when I took over, it was an honor to be called on," he siad. "I feel like when I was called on to do that, I realized that it wasn't something I could do by myself. I was going to need everybody and I asked everybody to help and I think everybody did."
"It was about the collective effort of all the players and coaches and trainers and equipment guys, everybody involved that had to pull together in Coach Fox's absence. So now we get to welcome him back and hand him over a team that took care of business and it is sitting on top of the division right now with a month to go."
Monday morning, Fox will return as the team's head coach. He has been cleared by doctors to return to his duties, and no formal restrictions will be placed on him.
Running back Knowshon Moreno predicted that Fox will be "amped up" to be back in the building.
Last week, he surprised the team with a trip to Dove Valley on Thanksgiving, and now the club is anxious to get him back on a permanent basis.
"It will be good to see Coach Foxy, to hear his voice," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "(Del Rio) did a great job, man. He held it down for Foxy."