DENVER —** C.J. Anderson was the first to be ruled out, but he wasn't the only Pro Bowler the Broncos needed to replace Sunday.
The Broncos put the star running back on injured reserve a day earlier, and with Aqib Talib and Brandon Marshall inactive for Sunday's game, Denver looked to its reserves to step up.
"We had some key components down," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said following the victory. "When you talk about losing C.J., 'B-Marsh' and Aqib, we had some players step up to the plate. That's what this league is all about."
The young players didn't just fill the void of the injured starters; they ended up being key factors in the Broncos' divisional game victory.
"I think it's a huge compliment to those guys," nose tackle Sly Williams said. "They put in the work like starters and when their number was called, they were able to go out there and answer the bell. At the end of the day, that's the type of team that we are. And we've been that way for a long time."
Without Talib suited on Sunday, Bradley Roby took on the challenge of filling his shoes, and second-year cornerback Lorenzo Doss welcomed a larger role with veteran Kayvon Webster suffering a hamstring injury during the game.**
"My mindset with Aqib down was, '[This is] another chance for me to get out there on the field a little bit more,'" Roby said. "This year I haven't been on the field as much, and you definitely have to take advantage of those opportunities you get."
He took advantage of the opportunity by plucking a deflected pass out of the air to intercept Philip Rivers in the second quarter for a 49-yard pick-six — a capable impression of Talib, who leads the NFL in interceptions (33) since he entered the league in 2008.
Doss' opportunity to shine came late in the game with the Chargers driving deep into Broncos territory with a chance to tie. On fourth-and-2 with 2:40 remaining in the game, Doss broke up a pass intended for tight end Hunter Henry, forcing the Chargers to turn the ball over on downs and effectively surrendering the game to the Broncos.
"I'm around No Fly Zone, the best of the best," the cornerback said. "The Broncos have me here for a reason, to cover."
Though the 'No Fly Zone' wasn't at full force, the missing players were never too far away from the game. Doss said that when he would head to the sideline, players like Talib and Webster would remind him to focus on technique while giving him pieces of advice from their vantage point.
For the linebacking corps, Brandon Marshall's responsibilities fell on third-year inside linebacker Corey Nelson, who finished the game with five tackles and one pass defensed.
"The transition was easy," Nelson said. "It was a little fast at first, but once I decided to calm down, it was easy. It felt like practice almost."
And with C.J. Anderson's absence, one the Broncos have been preparing for since Tuesday, the offense's next-man-up responsibilities fell on rookie Devontae Booker.
"You miss him a lot in the run game, protections. But I think those guys did a heck of a job stepping up in protections," quarterback Trevor Siemian said. "I think, obviously there's a little bit of a drop-off when you don't have C.J. in there, but those guys were really impressive with the way they handled things."
The rookie back finished with 54 yards on the ground including a three-yard touchdown run, along with five receptions for 30 yards, while Juwan Thompson, who was just activated from the practice squad on Saturday, also scored a touchdown on a one-yard run late in the game.
"We still have to get better as a unit," Thompson said. "One guy goes down, it doesn't mean the team goes down."
Sunday's victory with a reduced roster wasn't just a crucial, divisional win. It was an encouraging performance that proves the Broncos' resiliency — a key factor in their path to a Super Bowl 50 victory — is alive and well.
"Now the vets know that they can count on us," rookie safety Justin Simmons said. "When they feel nicked up and they're not really feeling too well going into certain game plays, they know that they can count on us to take a few reps off of their backs and make sure that we get them to the postseason so that we can go ahead [and] win another Super Bowl."