ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **When linebacker Brandon Marshall awoke the morning after Sunday's 24-13 loss, he felt far more than the pain of a season-ending defeat.
The foot he sprained against Dec. 14 was "real sore," the result of playing 52 percent of the defensive snaps against the Indianapolis Colts. That he managed to play at all given the nature of the injury and the four-week timeframe was a minor miracle and testament to his persistence through pain.
Marshall tied for the team lead in tackles, with six stops, including one for a loss. But he wasn't himself, and he knew it.
"During the game it felt decent. I just didn't have the same explosiveness off it that I had all year," he said. "That's typical when you're not 100 percent with an injury."
But sitting out was not an option. Even as early as Dec. 18, he knew that when he returned, pain management would determine how much he played.
"It definitely wasn't where I needed it to be," Marshall said. "I tried to do what I could do. I made a couple of plays. But other than that, it just wasn't where it needed to be.
"But I tried to battle through it, no matter what, because I wanted to be out there with my team, man. Nothing means more to me than playing with these guys."
The only positives to be extracted from Sunday are that he didn't exacerbate the injury, and he can now focus on rest and rehabilitation. Practicing and playing was not going to help his foot recover.
Surgery will not be required..
"I think the offseason will take care of it. It shouldn't linger until next season because it wasn't as bad as [Ryan] Clady's or anybody else's," Marshall said. "As long as I keep rehabbing, I think it'll be good."
Sunday's loss was a grim way to end a breakout season for Marshall, who led the Broncos in tackles and established himself as one of the league's best at melding gap-filling stoutness against the run with sideline-to-sideline and downfield pursuit.
"I want to prove to the entire league that I can be an every-down linebacker," he said. "I think they know that, and I'm just going to keep trying to continue to do that again next year."
In 2014, Marshall was the complete package, and the Broncos would not have led the AFC in yardage allowed per game and per play without his emergence in the wake of Danny Trevathan's leg and knee problems.
Marshall plans to take his time and let his foot heal. After that, his focus will turn to improvement.
"If I just get off blocks a little faster, a little better, maybe step up my pass rush a little bit, (I can improve)," he said. "I think I had pretty good man coverage, but obviously, (I must) just keep working on that."
Brandon Marshall gives us a top-notch celebration after his first career interception, captured from multiple angles.