ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As encouraging as the effort was in spirited but failed comebacks against the Falcons, Texans and Patriots, it was Monday night's dominant second half that now appears to be one of the biggest breakthroughs of the season.
"I wish it would've happened about four weeks before that, but it's better late than never, as they say," Head Coach John Fox said. "We did get within a play or two of being pretty close in some of those other games. (We) just came up a little short, so it's hard to have a lot of confidence and belief when nothing good happens. It takes something good happening, like last night, to build off of. You have to have faith and patience in what you're doing. It doesn't happen overnight, and usually nothing good does. They just kept battling. I've told you guys all along, I like this team. I like the makeup of this team, it's just hopefully you're waiting for something good to happen, and it did."
The exciting victory sends the Broncos into their bye week on a positive note.
"I think it comes at a good time," Fox said of the bye. "Coming off a Monday night, we get a little shortened up in our bye week, but we're not getting ready for a real game. That's the upside. They have a little time for it to sink in and adapt to it and get rested."
Though the game's final score made the Broncos' first half miscues a bit easier to stomach than the ones that proved more costly earlier in the season, Fox said the early errors, including two turnovers in the return game, will not be overlooked.
"If it was just one habit, it would be easy to break, but we've kind of spread those habits around," Fox said. "We've got to get that cleaned up. That gave them 10 points, or actually 17 points were off turnovers in that first half."
Kuper's Return Steadies O-Line
One welcome addition to the offense Monday against San Diego was the presence of veteran guard Chris Kuper. A team captain who missed the first four games of the season with a broken forearm suffered during training camp, Kuper started his first game of the season a week after easing into the action on special teams against the Patriots.
"Kup has been around," Fox said. "He's kind of the leader of that room. He does have a lot of leadership abilities and he's a good communicator. Up front, there are a lot of things going on. There is a lot made of Peyton as it should be, but (the offensive line) has to get all that information in a noisy, high-pressure environment. So it helps when there is a good comfort level there. Kup helps that. I thought Manny (Ramirez) did a great job for us. I know everybody in this building feels he's good enough to be a starter and I'm sure some other buildings think he is, too. It was a good opportunity for him and he's been great as far as Kup coming back and slipping back into that starting role."
'We're Going To Do What They Give Us'
With 309 more passing yards against the Chargers, quarterback Peyton Manning now has four consecutive performances with at least 300 yards passing and 30 or more passing attempts. Dating back to Week 3, Manning has aired it out an average of 41 times per game over the past four weeks. It's not a sign that Denver is reluctant to run the football, just that the team is completely comfortable getting it done through the air if necessary.
"Part of coaching, and I've said this many times, is putting your players in position that they can be successful," Fox said. "That's your quarterback, that's receivers, that's O-line, that's who your running backs are, and that's just offense. I think being who our quarterback is, we're probably a little bit more inclined to be pass-happy. He's had a lot of success in the National Football League throwing the ball. All in all, we're going to do what they give us, we're not going to be afraid to run it and we're not going to be afraid to pass it. How that works out on that given day, it's hard to predict because you are playing an opponent and they get to put in their game plan."
The Broncos' big victory was highlighted by a number of strong performances from players not typically in the starting lineup, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Safety Jim Leonhard recorded his first interception of the season, jumping with San Diego tight end Antonio Gates and pulling the ball away for an impressive interception. Also shining in the secondary were cornerbacks Chris Harris and Tony Carter, who stepped up with Tracy Porter injured and combined to notch three interceptions and a fumble recovery, and both found the end zone. The Broncos also were helped by a solid performance from veteran Keith Brooking, who started at middle linebacker.
"It's kind of one of the things we've been harping on is you can't wait for one guy to do it, or you can't wait for this star player to do it," Fox said. "Don't wait. You can be the guy to make the play. Don't wait around for somebody else to do it. I think Tony Carter and Chris Harris are guys that stepped in, did a pretty phenomenal job. So you just never know who's going to make that big play and sometimes it's unlikely heroes, but you don't wait around for some proven vet-, star-quality-type guy to always be the guy."