SAN DIEGO –The Chargers did the best they could to keep quarterback Peyton Manning on the sidelines, winning the time of possession battle 38:03 to 21:57.
But 21:57 turned out to still be enough time for Manning to throw for more than 300 yards and four touchdown passes in leading the Broncos to a 28-20 win at San Diego.
"I've been in those types of games before," Manning said. "Never know exactly what a team's plans are going to be on offense or defense, but you knew early – one possession in the first quarter, and you can barely call it a possession. I think it was three plays and Julius was flying down the sideline. You knew it wasn't going to be many possessions and we had to be efficient when we had the ball."
Manning kept up his historic pace as his 33 touchdown passes this season are tied for the most through nine games and his 3,249 passing yards are the most in league history at this point in the season.
Manning completed 25-of-36 passes for 330 yards with four touchdowns, topping the 3,000-yard and 30-touchdown mark in the first half against the Chargers.
Those numbers give him eight seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns,
second-most to Brett Favre in NFL history.
In the first half alone, Manning threw for 243 yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 152.1.
The win marked milestone for several Broncos.
It was the first for Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio in that role as Head Coach John Fox recovers from heart surgery, and was the 300th win for Broncos Owner and CEO Pat Bowlen.
"I think a lot of the players felt honored to be a part of it," 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."
The win made Bowlen the first professional football owner to reach the 300-win mark in just 30 years.
"Great win for Mr. Bowlen – 300 wins, that is awfully impressive," Manning said. "Just a good overall team win for the Broncos and a lot of people today."
Manning said Fox texted several players wishing them good luck before the game and that the players looked forward to presenting him a game ball in person when able to.
"I talked to him Saturday before we got on the plane to fly out here," Manning said. "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. He was in our thoughts and I thought Coach Del Rio has done a good job all week keeping us updated on Coach Fox. He has been in our thoughts and prayers all week."
While happy to leave San Diego with the win, Manning pointed to ball security as an area for improvement.
He lost the ball when he was hit while being sacked in the third quarter. Two plays later, the Chargers scored a touchdown to cut Denver's lead to 28-13.
"I hate these fumbles," Mannning said. "All of them have been while I'm throwing. I'm conscious of protecting it in the pocket, but all of the ones have been while I'm throwing. That's hard – I never quite figured out how to not fumble when they hit you while you're throwing. That's a tough one. I felt it and I thought I could kind of move and I saw Welker popping open and then obviously the guy was right on me. I'll take the blame for it. It's something that no matter what happens – an old coach always used to tell me, 'The most important thing about each play is that you possess the ball at the end of that play.' That's something I have to do a better job of."
Manning and Broncos fans received a scare late in the fourth quarter when the quarterback was hit low after completing a pass to Demaryius Thomas on the Broncos' final possession.
Manning stayed down after the hit and Broncos trainers rushed onto the field to check on him.
Because Denver was charged an injury timeout, Manning was able to remain in the game and close out the victory.
"Well, I figure after we got that first down that we were going to be able to keep it on the ground and handoff," Manning said of staying in the game. "I didn't think we were going to be running many sprintouts or naked bootlegs at that point so I felt OK to stay in and finish it out. Just with getting the snaps from Manny (Ramirez) and the ballhandling, you don't want to risk anything in that situation. I hated the fact that it made us burn a timeout. That was kind of a new one on me. I didn't know that after (San Diego) called timeout they didn't have to use it."
Manning will get an MRI tomorrow to check on the severity of the injury but said that he "certainly plans on" playing in this week's game against Kansas City.
"I'm pretty sore," Manning said. "They kind of got me twice in that lower area. I felt better coming into the game after the bye week, but I'm pretty sure. (I'll) get an MRI tomorrow and will probably know a little more."