The Denver Broncos nearly dominated the San Diego Chargers. They nearly won by three scores, and enjoyed such a lead a few times during the game (28-7 in the third quarter and 35-14 in the fourth quarter).
But Philip Rivers and the Chargers would not go quietly into Thursday night, slugging it out with the Broncos for four quarters. A fourth quarter interception by Rahim Moore at Denver's four-yard line ultimately ended the Chargers' comeback attempt, and the Broncos finished with a 35-21 win against one of the AFC's best.
It was a day of day for Emmanuel Sanders, who had his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season and the first multi-touchdown game of his career. Sanders finished with three touchdowns on the night, but Denver's first-half lead was all thanks to tough catches by Denver's prized free agent.
"Obviously in this system, you just gotta wait your turn," Sanders told the NFL Network after the game. "Everyone's going to eat eventually, and tonight was just my night."
Sanders' night started with a 38-yard pass from Peyton Manning that set the tone for much of the contest - the Broncos offense would not be denied like it was in so many other contests against the Chargers.
Two other Broncos players would finish with over 100 yards on the night - Demaryius Thomas and Ronnie Hillman, though neither registered a touchdown.
The Broncos' defense was impressive Thursday; Von Miller extended his league-best sack count with his ninth quarterback takedown of the year, while Chris Harris Jr. joined Moore in intercepting Rivers. Chargers running back Branden Oliver was completely stuffed by Broncos defenders, averaging 1.1 yards per carry late into the fourth quarter - his long run of 23 yards was the last play of the game with the Broncos in two-score-lead, prevent look.
Philip Rivers is a 2014 League MVP candidate for a reason though, and he and the Chargers put together three long touchdown drives to keep them in the game. Antonio Gates continued his career-long torture of Broncos players and fans, and after his two-touchdown night Thursday, Gates is tied with Denver's Julius Thomas (who had a relatively quiet night) for the league lead in touchdowns with nine.
But the Broncos also frustrated Rivers, sacking him twice, intercepting him twice, and getting plenty of GIF-worthy goodness from their AFC West enemy Thursday.
Peyton Manning was his usual record-breaking self. He threw his 511th, 512th, and 513th career touchdown passes Thursday night, all extending his newly-set NFL record. He also posted his 16th 20-touchdown season of his career, breaking Brett Favre's record of 15 such seasons. Manning finished 25 of 35 for 286 yards with 3 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 124.2 passer rating. His pass protection held up, not allowing a sack on Denver's future Hall of Famer - sorry Dwight Freeney.
The Broncos didn't surrender a turnover in the Thursday win, and it was another complete win by a team that impressed both offensively and defensively.
The Broncos improved to 6-1 on the season, maintaining their AFC and AFC West lead and dropping the rival Chargers to 5-3. They'll prepare to face the New England Patriots on the road two Sundays from now.