ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Nearly a year since his last extended action, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb exited Sunday's win over the Chargers feeling closer to his Pro Bowl self.
"I feel like that Chargers game was me getting into the groove of things," Chubb said Monday. "I was on the ground a couple times just trying to get my footing and trusting in that ankle and putting it in the ground and not really thinking too much about it. I had some plays where I did it well, some plays where I didn't do so well. Now I've got to go back and look at those plays and get into those positions on this practice field so I can be more comfortable throughout this week, and I feel like it was good for me to hop back into it, get my feet wet, knock the rust off and take it to this KC game full steam ahead."
Chubb, appearing for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle in September, played 30 snaps for the Broncos. While he didn't end up on the stat sheet, he drew double-teams and provided a solid rush on several occasions.
"I thought he did good," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Monday. "Obviously for him to play for the first time — I really don't even count the handful of plays he got against Jacksonville as plays for this year — so basically he played for the first time, in my mind, since our 14th game last year. He was rusty — that's what he told me. But it was great to get out there, knock off a good bit of that rust, and hopefully he'll make big strides this week."
Chubb said he was unsure whether he would return to play the Chargers, but after he consulted with the Broncos' training staff, he made his way back to the field.
"I knew I had to get back in order to make this playoff push," Chubb said.
And after 30 snaps, the ankle felt just fine.
"Trusting my ankle and getting out there and pushing on it and getting in those positions, it felt good," Chubb said. "And it felt good to get the win. It felt better for that part than anything. It was huge."
Chubb said he had normal soreness following the game but that his ankle "feels amazing" and that he's hoping to play a full workload of snaps against Kansas City.
"That's the plan, man," Chubb said. "We're going to be out here. Whatever the trainers feel like is best, whatever I feel like is best — it's my body. Going to go out there at practice and manage it and see how it feels and hopefully Sunday can be a full load, and if not, we're going to just have to work around it."
As the Broncos try to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Chiefs, Chubb's play will be critical. He's sacked Patrick Mahomes in the past, and he may need to get to him a couple of times on Sunday to help slow a potent Kansas City offense.
"The offense revolves around [No.] 15," Chubb said. "We've got to stop the run first. That's every week. You want to establish that dominance in the run game. When you do that, you've got to get after the quarterback. That's our job as outside linebackers, as pass rushers. We've got to affect [him] and get him off his spot, change his arm angle and stuff like that. We know he can do that, but try to make him as uncomfortable as we can. That's going to be the game plan."
With Chubb back in the lineup, the Broncos surely have a better chance to slow the former Super Bowl MVP — and they're more than glad that their top pass rusher has returned.
"We're thrilled to have him back," Fangio said after the game. "We love the guy. He's a great player. I'm glad he got this under his belt and hopefully, bigger and better things are coming."
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RACE
Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons has been the prohibitive favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in recent weeks, but Pat Surtain II's performance against Los Angeles may be enough to create pause.
Surtain became the first Broncos rookie since Steve Atwater in 1989 to record three interceptions in a season, and he's the first rookie to record a pick-six in a multi-interception game since Marcus Peters in 2015.
In 10 starts, Surtain has recorded three interceptions, a touchdown, 11 passes defensed, 37 tackles and a tackle for loss. Parsons, meanwhile, has forced two fumbles, defended a pair of passes and posted nine sacks, 67 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 23 quarterback hits.
"No doubt," said Fangio when asked if Surtain should be in the Rookie of the Year conversation.
"He played really well yesterday," Fangio said. "Obviously the two interceptions, everybody knows about. But he's broken up some passes too that were critical. They don't quite get the same pizzazz that the picks do, but they're just as critical. He's been playing good football for us all year. We're thrilled to have him. I don't want to speak for [General Manager] George [Paton], but I think I am: If we had to redo the draft right now and it was the same players available at No. 9, it'd be the same pick."
LOCK REMAINS THE NO. 2 QUARTERBACK
After Drew Lock threw an interception Sunday that led to a Chargers touchdown, Fangio said Lock would remain the team's reserve quarterback against the Chiefs.
"It's different for a guy who's never come off the bench," Fangio said. "In Drew's case, we're probably not giving him enough reps during the week, not to make an excuse for him. He's got to learn how to do better at that and maybe some of that is we need to have a better list of what he feels comfortable operating with and running and calling. Hopefully, he's learned from these two times. Hopefully, there won't be another time due to injury and he'll do better the next time."
Lock was 4-of-7 for 26 yards, an interception and a 25.6 quarterback rating in two series of relief.
Teddy Bridgewater returned to the game in the second half, and Fangio said Sunday that Bridgewater would have re-entered the game even if Lock had not thrown the interception.