SAN DIEGO --** The celebration in the visitors' locker room at Qualcomm Stadium following the Broncos' 28-20 win against the Chargers on Sunday resonated with a little added meaning. The team dedicated game balls to Owner and CEO Pat Bowlen for earning his 300th all-time victory and to Head Coach John Fox as he recovers from heart valve replacement surgery, which he underwent last Monday.
While earning a hard-fought victory against an AFC West foe and moving to 8-1 on the season was cause enough for celebration, Broncos players noted that helping Bowlen achieve the milestone made Sunday's win all the more special.
"I think a lot of the players felt honored to be a part of it," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "There are a lot of great players that have been a part of 300 wins – the entire time Mr. Bowlen has owned the team in 30 years. I think once former Broncos realize the statistic was accomplished today, a lot of players will take a lot of pride in it as they should."
"It's amazing," wide receiver Eric Decker added. "Just being a part of this organization for four years – and I haven't been anywhere else but out here – he's one of the best as far as taking care of his guys, organizationally. It's fun to come to work every day."
The work environment that Bowlen has provided throughout the entire Broncos organization is something that Interim Head Coach/Defensive Jack Del Rio identified in his postgame press conference as being pivotal to the organization's success over the years – and to the team's success this season.
"What a tremendous atmosphere he creates for us to work in – it's no wonder he's been this successful just based on the way he treats everybody and the atmosphere he creates for us to go to work every day in," Del Rio said. "So I'm very appreciative of that."
And Bowlen's players were equally appreciative of having the opportunity to be a part of the historic victory.
"It was great," linebacker Von Miller said. "This was Mr. B's 300th win – the fastest in 30 years. I know Mr. B got a game ball. It was well-deserved."
"His 300th win," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas added. "It felt great."
The team also dedicated a game ball to Fox, who has weighed heavily in the thoughts of players while he has been away from the team and recovering from surgery.
"That's big," defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson said. "That's exactly who it was for – Coach Fox, man. All the work he put in, all the stuff he does for us, this is a way that we can give him a hometown win. He's from San Diego. So getting this win for Coach Fox was big."
"He deserves it," wide receiver Wes Welker added. "He's our guy and we're playing hard for him. We've just got to keep racking up these wins."
Manning noted that Fox made a point to wish the team luck from a distance.
"He sent a lot of the players a text this morning wishing us luck. I talked to him Saturday before we got on the plane to fly out here," Manning said, jokingly adding, "I told him not to be yelling at me during the game, that's not good for his blood pressure. We'll see whether he did or didn't."
"I know he wanted to be here, but we got this one for him," Decker added.
Although Fox wasn't able to be there in person, his presence in the minds of his players certainly provided motivation.
"Guys were urgent. We wanted to get this win for Coach Fox," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.
"He has been in our thoughts and prayers all week," Manning added.
And while the team's game ball dedication to Fox in the locker room was symbolic, Manning noted that the Broncos are anticipating being able to present the ball to their head coach face-to-face.
"I know we look forward to presenting it to him in person," Manning said.
Until the team is able to do that, Vickerson left Fox with a message from the team as the Coach continues his recovery.
"Take it easy. Relax. We've got you," Vickerson said. "That's all. Just stay calm, stay cool, we've got you."