About an hour before gametime of the Denver Broncos' Week 15 matchup with the San Diego Chargers, news suddenly broke that Peyton Manning was sick. Maybe even really sick.
The flu-like symptoms didn't phase him. Manning threw a touchdown to Demaryius Thomas and boasted a 125.6 passer rating late in the fourth quarter as the Broncos knocked out the Chargers in San Diego, 22-10. Kicker Connor Barth led the way for the Broncos, kicking five field goals on five attempts, including a 49-yard beauty to give the Broncos a crucial two-score lead late in the fourth quarter. Broncos defenders intercepted Philip Rivers twice in the fourth quarter (Aqib Talib and Rahim Moore) to seal Denver's victory.
With the win, the Broncos clinched the AFC West, winning the division title for the fourth year in a row.
The first half was a comedy of errors, oddities, and questionable playcalling.
With Peyton Manning experiencing flu-like symptoms, the Broncos offense suffered from head-scratching decisions. Back-to-back handoffs to C.J. Anderson on 2nd and 19 and 3rd and 17 early in the game raised questions, then a lack of aggression on two 4th and Goals from the 1 (and settling for field goals) drew further ire. On one early series, the Broncos ran a pass play, a pass play, and kicked a field goal on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and Goal from the 1. Many would have called a running play on all three plays.
Manning threw a block on one C.J. Anderson run from the one (the play was ruled a touchdown, but that call would be overturned), then left to the locker room with a thigh injury. Poor clock management by the Brock Osweiler-led Broncos led to three Chargers points after a 58-yard Eddie Royal punt return.
Still, Manning overcame a thigh injury and the flu to start the second half. Later in the third quarter, the Broncos were rewarded for sticking with Peyton as he found Demaryius Thomas for a 28-yard touchdown, the only time the Broncos found the end zone in the game.
Injury round-up: Tackle Ryan Clady injured his thigh in the first quarter and was questionable to return. Chris Clark replaced Clady and stayed through the first half. Linebacker Brandon Marshall (foot) left in the second quarter and was questionable to return. Linebacker Danny Trevathan returned from the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return just in time, but also suffered an injury; we'll update with everyone's statuses as we learn it.
In the meantime, congratulations Denver Broncos! AFC West Champs for a record fourth year in a row!