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Next Day Notebook: 'Fans travel well,' Denver D dominates


Check out the action from the second half of Sunday's big win over the Chargers.


The Broncos earned their 12th straight divisional road win on Sunday, tying an NFL record. But if you took a look at the crowd, you might have thought the game was held at a neutral site.

"We were on the road, but I think the stands were 50-50," Terrance Knighton said. "It almost felt like a college bowl game. Our fans travel well. We fed off their energy."

Orange shirts and hats were everywhere, while cheers of "Let's go Broncos" rang through the stadium throughout the game and grew louder in the four quarter. Roars erupted when the Broncos came out for pregame warmups and when Peyton Manning emerged from the tunnel after halftime, while the noise following Demaryius Thomas' TD was about on par with the cheers for the Chargers' only touchdown.

"There's a lot of orange there," C.J. Anderson said. "And it just lets you know that our fans are the best in the NFL and they'll travel anywhere. It's just amazing to have."


Considering the opposition, Sunday's defensive performance may have been the best the Broncos have authored all season. Denver's D allowed a season-low 10 points -- the Chargers' second-lowest output this year -- and didn't allow a single play over 20 yards.

With the Broncos' offense settling for three red-zone field goals before halftime, Jack Del Rio's unit produced a top-notch first-half performance: Of five San Diego possessions, four ended without a first down and gained a total of 10 yards. The only possession where the Chargers did move the ball took 5:08 off the clock, but ended with no points after Derek Wolfe powered through the line and blocked Nick Novak's 46-yard field goal attempt. The only points yielded before halftime came on a 30-yard field goal following a 58-yard punt return inside the Denver 20.

In the second half, Philip Rivers got his group on the move for an 80-yard touchdown drive to narrow the lead to six. Complicating matters were injuries to Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, the Broncos' two signal-callers on defense.

"We couldn't get the call in. that was so frustrating and tough," Chris Harris Jr. said. "We had nobody with the headset. Having linebackers going down, that was tough, and we tried to signal but you can't signal because [the Chargers] know our signals. We were in a tough situation right there at the end."

And yet, the defense produced some of its finest work on the final two possessions, picking off Rivers twice for the second time this season. Even with the inability to relay play calls via headset, Del Rio dialed up schemes to confuse Rivers and force him into mistakes.

"Jack [does] a great job of switching it up, making it look the same and switching it up," Talib said. "That's what it was time for. We were up two scores, five minutes left. It's time for the defense to end the game so that's what we tried to do."

On Talib's interception, the defense aligned in a man coverage look with Harris opposite Keenan Allen, Talib across from Malcom Floyd and Bradley Roby in the slot, as they had most of the game. But instead, they dropped back into a zone. With help over the top from David Bruton Jr., Talib was free to read Rivers' eyes and break underneath Floyd's dig route.

"I looked at Philip the whole time," Talib said. "He probably thought we were in man but we [weren't]."

After a field goal put the Broncos up 12, the Chargers drove down into the red zone, needing two touchdowns in the final two minutes. But again, deception from the secondary forced an error from Rivers. Rahim Moore broke hard and fast from his single-high safety position toward Antonio Gates' post route, stepping in front of the tight end for the game-sealing pick.

"I came from the concession stands," Moore said. "He didn't see me. I was over there hiding. But it was a great call by our defensive coordinator and we went out there and made plays."

On a day when Manning was limited by illness, it was a resounding way for the defense to cap the victory.

"We want to win every game on defense and we know that defense wins championships," Harris said. "If we can continue to play at a high level like this and if the offense is having a down day, we can step up and get those wins, that's huge."


Though not a starter, Malik Jackson has proven himself a key role player along the Broncos' defensive line, often playing more snaps than either of the starting defensive tackles. After picking up a sack of Kyle Orton and five run stops a week ago, Jackson again wreaked havoc despite playing only 32 of the defense's 66 plays (48 percent) against the Chargers.

On a third-and-5 on the Chargers' second possession, Jackson fired off the line, walked left guard Chad Rinehart into Rivers' lap and got his hand up. Jackson hit Rivers' arm and the ball came free, with Von Miller recovering. Though replay review reversed the call to an incomplete pass, taking away the turnover, Jackson still ended the possession with a Chargers three-and-out, their second in as many possessions.

"Not everything's going to go your way," Jackson said. "It's one of those things where you keep working and keep trying to get there and get those sacks, batted balls, PBUs and tackles for losses." Jackson came back and deflected a pass to Keenan Allen late in the first half and then made back-to-back plays in the third quarter. First, he exploded past Rinehart and almost beat Philip Rivers to the handoff, engulfing Branden Oliver for a 5-yard loss. A play later, Jackson worked up the left side of the line on a stunt and was stalled by D.J. Fluker, but got his arm up again, batting down a pass from Rivers. The batted pass was negated by a holding penalty in the secondary, but that doesn't diminish the ability Jackson continues to show. Flanked by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, and paired with Knighton or Derek Wolfe inside, Jackson should continue to hound opposing offenses.


The toughness demonstrated by the Broncos to clinch the division Sunday did not go unnoticed. After battling through injuries and Manning's illness/thigh ailment, the team made its head coach proud.

"I thought it was a pretty gritty performance with all that happened," John Fox said on Monday. "A bunch of guys were getting nicked, their team got nicked too so it was a very physical game. Our guys stuck in there and found a way to get it done."

Demaryius Thomas had some glowing words for the performance by his QB: "You can't ask for [any] better. If a man comes out and plays that sick and throwing up and all this other stuff, that's all you can ask for. He did great, if you ask me."

But perhaps just as important as overcoming injuries/illness were the plays and production on the field that didn't go the Broncos' way en route to victory.

Denver went 0-for-3 scoring touchdowns on red-zone possessions, including 0-for-2 in goal-to-go situations, and also allowed a 58-yard punt return to former Bronco Eddie Royal. And while the Broncos' running game was strong at times and helped sustain drives, it averaged 2.8 yards per carry on the afternoon as the Chargers packed the box while expecting runs in the second half. The offense also converted a season-low 25 percent of their third downs, going 3-for-12.

But none of it mattered, with Denver still pulling away to a 12-point win in Qualcomm Stadium, where the Chargers have been a far more lethal team this season.

While playing far from their best, the Broncos still beat a desperate team convincingly, which bodes well moving forward and also demonstrates how well-rounded the squad has become.

"I think it says a lot," Manning said after the game. "It says we've got a good football team, that we can win different ways."

Emmanuel Sanders added: "It doesn't matter if it's pretty, if it's ugly. As long as we get the win and we got that today."

See the best moments captured from Sunday's AFC West-sealing victory in sunny San Diego.

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