ENGLEWOOD, Colo —Sunday against the Chargers, Demaryius Thomas accomplished a feat that hadn't been performed by a Bronco in nearly a decade.
The wide receiver's three-touchdown performance Sunday tied a franchise record for most touchdown catches in a single game. Eight other Broncos have had three touchdown catches in a game, but no one has done it since Shannon Sharpe nearly 10 years ago.
Thomas finished the game with seven catches for 108 yards – his second 100-yard game of the season and the 11th of his career. He is one of six receivers in the NFL this season to have a 100-yard, three-touchdown day and he now leads the AFC in receiving touchdowns with nine.
"We had a bye week. Our offensive coordinator and Peyton had a week to get ready for this," Thomas said of what prompted the outburst on offense. "We came out, we drilled some new things and it worked."
Thomas' first score came in the second quarter and pushed the Broncos in front by two scores. With running back Montee Ball blocking out in front, Thomas caught a pass on the right side of the field and stretched the ball over the pylon before going out of bounds.
"I think Peyton saw something," Thomas said of the play. "He alerted to another play and I just got open and tried my best to get in the end zone."
Thomas scored his second touchdown in the final seconds before halftime, and he scored again early in the third, breaking away from defenders for a 34-yard strike.
"I mean, I asked him, 'I can't get one?'" fellow receiver Eric Decker joked. "No, it was fun. He's obviously a beast, so I'm happy he caught everything and made some big plays."
Phillips Makes Return
The Broncos' leader in sacks added to his season total Sunday with a third-quarter takedown of an old teammate. Defensive end Shaun Phillips played his first game as a visitor in San Diego Sunday after playing for the Chargers for nine seasons.
On a first-and-10, Phillips pulled down Philip Rivers for a loss of 10 yards and another former Charger – Quentin Jammer – helped close out the drive with back-to-back tackles on second and third down to force a punt.
After the sack, the Chargers fans heckled Phillips with some boos during his celebration, but that didn't seem to bother him.
"It's no ill will," he said. "I don't have anything negative to say about San Diego, nor their fans. They were great fans. You know, I'm a Bronco now and I'm happy to be where I'm at."
Phillips didn't make much fuss about returning to his former home stadium and echoed his statements from the week leading up to the game – saying it was "business as usual."
"It was nothing different," Phillips said. "It's business as usual. Two end zones, two sidelines, just got to play football. Even if we were playing on – if we were in Denver or at a high school football field, it's just business as usual."
Another AFC West Showdown
After improving to 3-0 in the division and 8-1 overall, the Broncos' next challenge is the division-leading, undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs had a bye this week but handled the Bills in Week 9 to keep their record perfect. Now the Broncos will focus on trying to be the first blemish on the Chiefs' slate.
"They're the division leaders right now," wide receiver Wes Welker said after the game. "They're the team to beat. They're undefeated. They're coming off a bye week. They have a lot of things going their way right now. We've got to really hone in this week, have a great week of practice and get ready for them."
Kansas City has yet to allow a team to score more than 17 points this season and are allowing a league-best 12.3 points per game. In contrast, the Broncos are leading the league in scoring with more than 40 points per game.
"It's going to be a great game," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "They're a great team, they've got a great defense. Offense is rolling a little bit, so it's going to be a great challenge and we're excited to play."