SAN DIEGO (AP) – Peyton Manning and the rest of the Denver Broncos will present a game ball to John Fox as soon as the coach rejoins them after recovering from heart surgery.
“We look forward to giving it to him in person,” Manning said after the Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers on Sunday in their first game since Fox had his aortic valve replaced. Fox was released from the hospital Friday and will continue his recovery at his offseason home in Charlotte, N.C.
With interim coach Jack Del Rio in charge, Manning threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, three to Demaryius Thomas.
Manning said he spoke with Fox by phone on Saturday before the Broncos flew to San Diego.
“I told him not to be yelling at me during the game. It’s not good for his blood pressure,” Manning said. “I’m not sure we’ll see if he did or didn’t. But he was in our thoughts. Coach Del Rio has done a good job all week keeping us updated on coach Fox.”
Fox planned to watch the game on TV, a team spokesman said. If he watched, he probably didn’t like seeing Manning hurting his right ankle when he was hit by Corey Liuget as the Broncos ran out the clock in the closing minutes. Manning stayed in the game.
Manning wouldn’t be specific about his injury, but said he was “pretty sore” and that he planned to have an MRI on Monday.
Manning was hurt after completing a pass to Thomas with 1:44 left.
Manning kept the Broncos (8-1) rolling. He threw touchdown passes of 11, 7 and 34 yards to Thomas on consecutive drives spanning the second and third quarters, staking the Broncos to a 28-6 lead.
The Chargers (4-5) closed the gap late in the second half but couldn’t catch up.
Here are five things we learned about the Broncos and Chargers on Sunday:
NOT MANNING UP: Manning wasn’t forthcoming when asked about his injury. “I feel like the injury report is very revealing for the opponents as well as the folks in Vegas, so I guess somewhere in that lower body,” Manning said. Asked about playing in the Broncos’ showdown with AFC West leader Kansas City (9-0) next Sunday night, Manning said: “I totally plan on it.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Manning has thrown for 3,249 yards and 33 touchdowns in nine games. He completed 25 of 36 passes against the Chargers. The Broncos have scored 371 points, the most through the first nine games of a season in NFL history. The previous high of 358 was by the 1950 Los Angeles Rams. Julius Thomas had a 74-yard catch-and-run on Denver’s first drive, turning a short pass into the second-longest play by a tight end in team history.
TIME’S ON THEIR SIDE: The Broncos’ scoring drives lasted 57 seconds, 2:27, 1:25, and 3:26. “You knew it wasn’t going to be many possessions and we had to be efficient when we had the ball,” Manning said. Nick Novak‘s missed 37-yard field goal attempt for San Diego late in the second quarter gave Manning enough time to move the Broncos 73 yards in nine plays, all passes, capped by his 7-yard scoring throw to Demaryius Thomas for a 21-6 lead before halftime. Manning threw only one incompletion that drive. The Broncos got the opening kickoff of the second half and went 78 yards in eight plays, with Thomas’ 34-yard TD catch giving the Broncos a 28-6 lead. “So it’s a 14-point swing – the difference in the ballgame,” Manning said.
RED ZONE BLUES: The Chargers were inside the Denver 23 three times in their first four possessions and had to settle for field goals of 26 and 40 yards by Nick Novak. Novak was wide left on a 37-yard attempt with 1:38 left before halftime. “Three opportunities, you get six points and they score 28,” said Chargers rookie coach Mike McCoy, who was Denver’s offensive coordinator the past four seasons. “As you go along that is critical. When you play Peyton you have to get touchdowns. We’ve just got to do a better job.”
O-LINE WOES: The Chargers finished the game without left tackle King Dunlap, who sustained his third concussion this season, and center Nick Hardwick, who had a stinger. Rookie right tackle D.J. Fluker moved to left tackle and Rich Ohrnberger took over at center. Other injuries were to LB Larry English (bicep) and fullback Le’Ron McClain (ankle).
– By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
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