ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **Broncos players weren't the only ones who were excited when Head Coach John Fox returned to his day-to-day duties just four weeks after undergoing heart surgery on Monday.
Count Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway among that list, as well.
Elway discussed Fox's return to the Broncos during the Week 14 edition of his "Elway Access" podcast with Chris Hall of Broncos TV – and while Elway expressed enthusiasm about the coach's return to Dove Valley, he also acknowledged the collective effort of the Broncos coaching staff in steering the team to a 3-1 record in Fox's absence.
"I think he's come back with plenty of energy, too, so it's great to have him back," Elway said. "But I think when you look at it, you look at the challenge and what went on, it was a collective effort by everybody to pick up the slack. Jack Del Rio did a tremendous job, as well as Adam Gase, as the coordinators. And all the coaches did a great job of picking up slack and replacing the enthusiasm that John brings to the building day-in and day-out."
It was the combined leadership of Del Rio – who served as interim head coach – along with the rest of the coaching staff and the team, Elway noted, that enabled the Broncos to weather a trying four-game stretch against stiff competition, three of which were on the road.
"We were able to get through a very tough stretch 3-1 and a lot of that credit goes to Jack as well as the rest of the staff and also the football team," Elway said. "The fact that we have a mature football team and they all took it upon themselves to pick up the slack also and kept it business as usual to where we were able to get those four games – the four big games that they were – and we were able to get out of there 3-1."
The most recent of those wins – a 35-28 victory on the road at Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs on Sunday – helped Denver take sole possession of first place in the AFC West, a victory that Elway called "huge" for the Broncos.
"It's tough to beat a team like the Chiefs twice, especially in one year – let alone twice in three weeks," he said. "I think it was a huge game for us."
Elway said that he was particularly impressed with the way the Broncos battled through adversity and rallied back from a 21-7 deficit against the Chiefs, especially with the win coming just one week after Denver suffered a difficult 34-31 overtime setback on the road against the Patriots.
"Especially with what happened to us last week in New England – having that big lead and giving up that big lead, and then eventually losing in overtime," Elway said. "And then again, going back into Kansas City – now we're way down, we battle back, get ahead by 14 points. And then, again, have to make a stop defensively to get the win."
And while there were a number of individual performances that shined on Sunday – wide receiver Eric Decker's four touchdown receptions set a Broncos franchise record, quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns, and rookie running back Montee Ball rushed for 117 yards, among others – Elway said that the entire team took crucial strides against the Chiefs.
"To me, we played with a lot of gut, we played with a lot of heart and we played with a lot of toughness," Elway said. "I think we really improved as a football team in Kansas City on Sunday."
As the Broncos enter the final quarter of the season, Elway also discussed the battles with injuries that the team has had to deal with in recent weeks.
"Everybody goes through these injury-plagued times and we've got to continue to battle through that," Elway said. "Fortunately we get to come home for the next two, but we've got to continue to battle and we have to continue to have those guys step up that weren't necessarily starters at the beginning of the year but are being called upon now."
The team's first step is a Sunday showdown with the Titans, and while the Broncos can clinch a playoff spot with a victory, Elway said that the team's long-term goals still remain at the forefront of its focus.
"Realizing where we sit right now, that we control our own destiny – if we can win out, then we'll have the number-one seed again," Elway said. "That's our goal and that's our mindset."