Broncos' Defensive Firepower

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
4:15
PM ET


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Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden discuss the Broncos' defense, which they say will be the key to their "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Bengals, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Bengals Ready For Broncos

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
3:33
PM ET


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WR A.J. Green, RB Jeremy Hill and LB Rey Maualuga break down the keys for the Bengals to beat the Broncos on "Monday Night Football," 8:30 ET on ESPN.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was sent home Saturday from the team’s complex because he suffered from what head coach John Fox called "flu-like symptoms."

Sanders
Sanders did not participate in the team’s practice and was officially listed as questionable for Monday night’s game against the Bengals. However, Fox said Sanders will make the Sunday afternoon trip to Cincinnati with the Broncos and is expected to play in the game.

Sanders is the team’s second-leading receiver with 89 catches and 1,261 yards.

Quarterback Peyton Manning was limited in Saturday’s practice because of a right thigh injury he suffered in this past weekend's win against San Diego, and also listed as questionable. However, Manning, too, is expected to start. He threw in drills during the workout after participating in the team’s walk-through.

Other than when he missed the 2011 season following spinal-fusion surgery, Manning has not missed a start in his 16 other NFL seasons. Asked about Manning’s workload in Saturday’s practice, Fox said:

"(It was) fairly normal to the rest of the season ... He looked good in practice."

Manning also participated in the walk-through and threw in individual drills Friday. On Thursday, Manning participated in the Broncos’ walk-through, went through the team stretch and then went back into the Broncos’ complex to get treatment.

Manning, who played Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms after getting four IVs Saturday night and Sunday morning combined, injured his thigh when he rolled out right to throw a 12-yard completion to Sanders with 5 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the first half.

Manning stayed in the game for the next eight plays, but left the field following a C.J. Anderson run for no gain on a third-and-goal from the Chargers’ 1-yard line. Brock Osweiler finished out the first half before Manning played the entire second half.

Also Saturday, linebacker Brandon Marshall (left foot) and tackle Paul Cornick (toe on right foot) did not practice and will not play Monday night. Marshall is the Broncos’ leading tackler.

Running back Juwan Thompson (hip, knee), running back Ronnie Hillman (left foot), left tackle Ryan Clady (right thigh), and cornerback Kayvon Webster (right shoulder) were also limited in Saturday’s practice and officially listed as questionable for the game. Clady is expected to start at left tackle, and Thompson and Hillman are expected to be available to play.

Hillman has not played since he suffered his injury Nov. 9 against the Oakland Raiders.

Center Will Montgomery (knee) and tight end Jacob Tamme (ribs) participated fully Saturday and will play. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (right ankle), Anderson (left ankle), and tight end Julius Thomas (left ankle) all took part fully in Saturday’s practice as well and will play.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the end, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio sees it as simple math.

"In my mind you have two preferable ways to get the ball back for our offense," Del Rio said. "One is a turnover and we like turnovers. And the other is a three-and-out, and I like three-and-outs too. Those are my preferences, those are what I want to see, that's how we can get the ball back as many times as we can for Peyton [Manning] and our offense."

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware, Von Miller
Kevin Terrell/AP ImagesDeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and the Broncos' defense have consistently forced opponents into second- and third-and-long situations.
And when it comes to turnovers this season, the Broncos have improved of late with a league-high eight takeaways over the last three games, but they are decidedly middle-of-the-road overall when it comes to their body of work in that department. Sixteen teams currently have more takeaways the Broncos do (21).

But three-and-outs? That's another matter entirely.

"I feel like we've had a lot," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "I mean we always want more, but it feels like we've had a lot."

The Broncos can trust their feelings there. After 14 games the Broncos (11-3) have forced a three-and-out for a punt on 30.4 percent of possessions by opposing offenses. That total leads the league, as does the 52 three-and-outs to a punt the Broncos' defense has forced overall.

The docket includes 10 three-and-outs against the Arizona Cardinals (11-3), nine against the Oakland Raiders (2-12) and five in the Broncos' Nov. 30 win over the Kansas City Chiefs (8-6).

"You always want to get off the field," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "It helps now that we're running the ball more on offense, because we're a little fresher when we get back out there. Maybe it hurts guys like Von [Miller] and DeMarcus [Ware] who, if we were on the field more, they'd probably be fighting for the sack lead ... But everybody on this defense wants to just win so for me, for everybody, let's get a three-and-out and get off the field."

The Broncos have certainly had their moments this season when they've let opposing offenses wriggle out third-and-long situations -- the Chiefs alone converted seven third downs in third-and-8 or longer in September -- but overall a run defense that is No. 2 in the league has consistently pushed offenses into second-and-long and third-and-long situations.

And, with some additional depth on defense as compared to last season, the Broncos have been able to move from their base defense on early downs, with Knighton and Sylvester Williams at defensive tackle to go with Derek Wolfe and Ware at defensive end, and then consistently hold the line when they go to some of their five-, six- and seven-defensive back looks.

In this past Sunday's win over the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos allowed one first-down rushing attempt for more than 5 yards in the game as eight of the Chargers' 12 first-down run plays in the game went for 3 or fewer yards.

Against the Buffalo Bills the week before, the Bills found a crease or two early in the game with first-down run plays of 7, 12 and 11 yards in the first quarter, but overall six of the 10 first-down rushing attempts in the game for the Bills went for 2 or fewer yards and after the first quarter the Bills only had one first down run of more than 2 yards.

"Those are the situations you want to keep putting offenses in," Harris said. "It's that one-dimensional thing. You stop the run, you make them throw and then we have the pass-rushers with Von and DeMarcus who are going to be waiting for their chances."

In all, the Broncos defense has allowed opposing offenses to gain an average of 4.75 yards per play, the lowest total in the league, just ahead of defensive heavyweights like Seattle (4.76 yards per play allowed), Detroit (4.89) and Buffalo (4.91). Those four teams are the only ones in the league allowing fewer than 5 yards per play on average.

"You're not going to do it, not going to force three-and-outs, limit what people do against you, if you're not pretty good on defense and we're pretty good on defense," Del Rio said. "But the time for looking at all those things comes later. Right now it's what's in front of you, how are you going to stop the next team. That's what I'm looking at. But that's not to say I'm not glad to hear all those things because I am glad to hear all those things. Now, we just need to be a little bit better each week."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said his grandmother, Martha Kates, “Googles my name about every five seconds" to see how Knighton is doing on and off the field these days.

On Friday, Knighton said his grandmother would be "very happy, very happy" to see he had been named the 2014 winner of the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, an award presented by the Denver chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America and named for the former Broncos cornerback who was killed in a drive-by shooting in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day in 2007.

Ayodele
Knighton
Knighton was the award’s eighth winner after a vote of members of Denver-area media. It is given for accountability and accessibility in the day-to-day workings of the season.

“It’s an honor; it’s like my first award in the NFL, really," Knighton said following practice Friday. “ … Rochelle Knighton, I’ve got to say that, my mom, she always teaches me to be respectful, always give more respect to the people that respect you. … Just got to be accountable. It comes with the job."

Knighton, one of the team captains, is the eighth consecutive Broncos defensive player to win the award. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. won last season, and former Broncos safety John Lynch was the award’s first winner in 2007.

When asked what he knew of Williams, Knighton said: “Guys say he was just a lively person, he was on his way to being one of the best corners in the league … He impacted, obviously you guys, other players in the NFL. … His life had a purpose and his legacy lives on."

“Hold myself accountable, hold them accountable," Knighton said. “ … I always believe in not letting people down."

Said Broncos coach John Fox: “[Knighton has] a great personality … a tremendous addition to our locker room."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was officially listed as limited in Friday’s practice because of a right thigh injury, but Manning threw more than he did in Thursday’s practice as the Broncos close in on Monday night’s game in Cincinnati.

Manning participated in the walk-through and threw in individual drills Friday and is still on track to start against the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium. Other than when he missed the 2011 season because of spinal-fusion surgery Manning has not missed a start in his 16 other NFL seasons.

Thursday Manning participated in the Broncos’ walk-through, went through the team stretch and then went back into the Broncos’ complex to get treatment on his leg. Friday he remained in the field for practice, throwing throughout the portion open for viewing.

“He’s improving, I thought he had good work out there [Friday],’’ said Broncos head coach John Fox, following Friday’s practice.

Manning, who played last Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms after getting four IVs Saturday night and Sunday morning combined, injured his thigh on a rollout with 5 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the first half.

He stayed in the game for the next eight plays, but gave way to Brock Osweiler, who finished out the first half. Manning went on to play the entire second half.

Also Thursday, linebacker Brandon Marshall (left foot) and tackle Paul Cornick (toe on right foot) did not practice.

Running back Juwan Thompson (hip, knee), who was held out of Thursday’s practice, took part in Friday’s on a limited basis. Also limited were running back Ronnie Hillman (left foot), left tackle Ryan Clady (right thigh), center Will Montgomery (knee) and cornerback Kayvon Webster.

Tight end Jacob Tamme (ribs), who had been limited in Thursday’s practice, was a full participant in Friday’s practice. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (right ankle), Anderson (left ankle) and tight end Julius Thomas (left ankle) all took part fully in Friday’s practice.

Prediction: Broncos beat Bengals

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
1:00
PM ET
By the time Monday night’s game in Cincinnati is finished, the Denver Broncos will have played six of their last eight games on the road.

The Monday night affair in Paul Brown Stadium will be their last road game of the regular season and it comes at a time when the Broncos are very intent on securing as many home games as possible for what comes next in January.

Or as cornerback Chris Harris Jr. put it: “We have a lot to play for, we’re looking to position ourselves, do whatever it takes to get as many wins as possible.’’

The Broncos still cling to the hope they can earn the AFC’s home-field advantage in the playoffs. To do that they need to win their last two games: Monday against the Bengals and the regular-season finale against Oakland in Denver, and they need the New England Patriots to lose.

That has certainly kept the team’s attention on business during the current four-game win streak. The Bengals, trying to win an AFC North title, have been outscored 71-20 in two prime-time losses this season.

The Broncos, at least since Manning signed with the team in 2012, have certainly closed the deal in December. They are 11-1 in December games since Manning’s arrival, including 6-0 in December road games.

Put it all together and the Broncos won’t get caught napping.

My prediction: Broncos 31, Bengals 20.

Broncos vs. Bengals preview

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
8:00
AM ET
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When: 8:30 p.m. ET Monday Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati TV: ESPN

Peyton Manning is good. Under the lights, the Cincinnati Bengals are not.

But if the Bengals have plans of joining the Denver Broncos as a playoff-bound team, they will have to overcome the future Hall of Fame quarterback and put to rest their atrocious recent prime-time showing.

Since 2011, the year Andy Dalton became its starting quarterback, Cincinnati is 2-9 in nationally televised playoff games and night games on Monday, Thursday and Sunday nights.

Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold and Bengals reporter Coley Harvey are here to preview this week's "Monday Night Football" game:

Harvey: Manning is 8-0 against the Bengals, including a 3-0 mark against them in December. He has thrown 10 touchdowns and no interceptions against them in December. For the Bengals to have any hope of stopping him, what are two things their defense must do?

Legwold: As an opposing defensive coach told me this season, "I don't know why anybody needs to list the stats for him; let's just assume they're good against everybody and go from there." Manning has won at least eight games against 10 different teams in his career. And defensively, the formula is not complicated, yet difficult to do. Defenses who succeed against him generally create some kind of consistent pressure in the middle of the field -- they win the A gaps -- keeping him from setting his feet, and they don't give him room to climb the pocket to step into his throws. Those defenses also limit the Broncos' ability to use their variety of crossing routes. They play physically against the Broncos' receivers and limit yards after the catch because they tackle well. Not rocket science, but difficult to do because the Broncos are creative in play design. Manning delivers the ball quickly and consistently makes defenses pay for sending extra rushers (game video shows Manning had five completions this past weekend against the Chargers' blitz for 111 yards and a touchdown). So, a defense has to get all of that done largely by rushing four players, and it can't miss assignments behind that rush.

Defending a rookie in his first NFL start is one thing, and the Bengals did well in a 30-0 win against the Cleveland Browns with Johnny Manziel behind center last week, but how do you expect them to defend Manning?

Harvey: You just summed it up perfectly, Leggy. I'll add this. A defense can best stop Manning by sending a standard four-man rush and hope and pray the coverage downfield holds up. Last week, in fact, this was exactly what allowed the Bengals to bully Manziel. Only twice did they send blitzes on the mobile young quarterback. The rest of the time, they did exactly what you prescribed: They attacked the A gaps with great interior pressure from the line and forced Manziel to roll to his right. Obviously, Manning isn't rolling anywhere, but the Bengals have to hope Geno Atkins is up to pushing back the line the way he has finally started doing in recent weeks. With the Bengals also expected to use a lot of nickel defense to counter the Broncos' multi-receiver and tight end looks, don't be surprised if defensive end Wallace Gilberry goes inside to give some extra athleticism to the interior rush.

Jeff, it seems like over the past seven weeks, running back C.J. Anderson has exploded onto the scene for Denver. First, why did it take so long to get him involved in the run game, and second, what did Buffalo do so well to hold him in check two weeks ago?

Legwold: During the Broncos' offseason work, especially in minicamp, there was some thought around the team that Anderson's spot was pretty tenuous and that he might not make the roster because he had tried to bulk up a bit and looked sluggish. Anderson showed up to training camp leaner and looked far better, but Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman had already pushed their way in front of him. Anderson had routinely flashed in practice and in his limited game work, at least enough to stay in the mix, and when injuries forced the Broncos to hand him the ball, he showed patience and vision as a runner -- perhaps more than they thought he had -- and he almost always made the first defender miss or powered through the attempted tackle. If you're looking for a play that got everybody's attention, it was his 51-yard catch-and-run touchdown in Oakland when he made a one-handed grab on a screen pass -- a play Manning said he thought was "going to be a 1- or 2-yard loss" -- and five different Raiders had a chance to bring Anderson down and did not. In terms of Buffalo's plan, it was a sound group that was assignment-disciplined and tackled well; defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has faced Manning plenty over the years because of Schwartz's time with the Titans. The Bills came into the game against the Broncos leading the league in sacks, and they didn't sack Manning in the game. Anderson did pound the ball into the end zone three times, but his 2.8 yards per carry were the lowest since he became starter.

The Bengals are one of six teams averaging more than 30 rushing attempts per game this season; the Broncos are No. 2 in run defense. Do you think the Bengals will still try to pound away some to limit the Broncos' possessions, or because they believe they will be able to make some running room?

Harvey: One of the Bengals' most recent additions is NFL Players Association president Eric Winston, an offensive tackle who, before coming to Cincinnati three weeks ago, spent six seasons with the Texans and one with the Chiefs. He had an up-close look at Manning twice a season during the Texans' AFC South games when the quarterback still played for the Colts, and saw him twice in Kansas City in 2012. This week, Winston said those teams' mindset against Manning always involved running. So yes, I believe the run should, and will, be the Bengals' approach. Besides, Jeremy Hill has been running well in the past six weeks, topping 140 yards three times in that span. His hard running and guard Kevin Zeitler's constant pulling made for a nightmare day for Cleveland's defense. Also, I noticed that of the four times this season when teams have run 25 or more times against Denver, they beat the Broncos three times. To me, Cincinnati's best hope of winning is to run well, run often, get a late lead, and play keep-away from Manning.

Jeff, I'm sure the Broncos' many pass-rushers will be hounding Dalton all night, but why has Denver's front seven been so good against the run?

Legwold: Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton is -- even nationally, perhaps -- an undervalued player when it comes to what he means to the Broncos' run defense. He's disruptive, ties up blockers and doesn't get turned in the hole. He stays square and takes away run lanes. The Broncos also have plenty of team speed across the front and pursue the ball well. Even their pass-rushers, like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, are disciplined in their run fits. Ware especially has shown himself to be reliable in how he sets the edge, and as a result, offenses haven't been able to run the ball to the inside shoulders of Ware and Miller because they play with some vision as they move up the field. That wasn't always the case earlier in Miller's career, when offenses would catch him at times being a little too aggressive as he tried to get upfield. The Broncos have tackled well for the most part, too. They have helped themselves with good work on first down, as well. Offenses are routinely facing second-and-8 or third-and-7, and that takes those offenses out of any rhythm to run. For example, the Chargers ran the ball 10 times on first down last Sunday. Only one of the runs went for more than five yards -- an 11-yard run by Branden Oliver early in the fourth quarter -- and six went for three or fewer yards.

Few players take as much heat for their prime-time and/or postseason performance as Dalton. Is there significantly more pressure on him in this one given it is the "Monday Night Football" regular-season finale and the Bengals need the win to keep the inside track for a shot at the division title?

Harvey: It's more of the latter, Jeff. The pressure will be raised on Dalton this week because the Bengals simply have to get it done. Though there is an outside shot they will sneak into the playoffs as an AFC wild card if they lose the next two games, they would do themselves so many favors if they won at least one. The finale at Pittsburgh next week won't be a cakewalk, either. The heat Dalton has taken is real and deserved. It seems like he's mostly great at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. But turn on the lights and he's not. From a personal standpoint, Dalton wants to make up for his last nationally televised outing. The Bengals lost to Cleveland 24-3 in a Thursday night game last month in which Dalton registered a 2.0 passer rating.

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When defensive tackle Terrance Knighton offered his quasi-promise -- his "we won't be satisfied" belief -- that the Denver Broncos would win the Super Bowl, it raised the expected hackles in the social media world.

It certainly got the expected venom from the New England Patriots' faithful, some of it directed toward Knighton himself, who saw their team defeat the Broncos 43-21, on Nov. 2 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

It even drew the "we'll do our talking on the field" quote from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The one place it hasn't registered all that much on the football Richter scale is in the Broncos' locker room.

"[Knighton] is a grown man, [Coach John Fox] talked to him a little bit, I guess, talked to the team a little bit," said cornerback Aqib Talib, who played just under two seasons in New England before he signed with the Broncos this past March. " ... If that's how he was feeling when the question was asked, that's how he was feeling when the question was asked ... everybody in the league, it ain't no secret, he just said it, but everybody in the league is thinking it. He was just the one who said it. It ain't no big deal to us."

"I think Terrance has got a lot of confidence, I think that's a good quality about him," said quarterback Peyton Manning.

Following Sunday's win over the San Diego Chargers that clinched Denver's fourth consecutive AFC West title, Knighton was asked about the team's postseason potential. He then told Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla:
It doesn't matter what happens. At the end of the year, we're hoisting that trophy. I don't care if New England doesn't lose again. I don't care where we have to play. I don't care who our opponent is. We're not going to be satisfied until we hoist that trophy. So if we've got to go to New England [in the playoffs] and win somewhere we're not used to winning, we're going to make it happen. Write that. And put a big period after that one.

Following Thursday's practice Fox, much like he did earlier in the week, chose to simply deflect Super Bowl talk. The Broncos, from John Elway on down, have said since the start of the offseason program they wanted another shot at the title game after the blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII last February.

Many players have said anything less than a Super Bowl win this time around would be a major disappointment. A theme many Broncos players believe has been expressed in many other NFL outposts, so Knighton's teammates haven't seen what much of the fuss is about.

Fox simply deflected away from the topic following Thursday's practice with: "I think there is no doubt we've had a lot of goals this season and right now our goal is to focus on Cincinnati."

And Knighton? Well, he's treated this like he does run defense much of the time, as in he has dug in and is not being pushed off his spot. After practice Thursday, Knighton, a Connecticut native who has repeatedly said he was a Patriots fan growing up and that many of his family members are still Patriots' fans, was still feeling good about the Broncos' chances.

"I feel like our defense right now is playing the best of any defense right now in the NFL," Knighton said. "And we want to carry this team to a Super Bowl victory. I stand by what I said, I don't care who we play, where we play, put the ball down and we're going to come out with a victory."

NFL Cold Hard Facts

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
7:18
PM ET


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Jeff Saturday breaks down how the Cardinals can beat the Seahawks, how the Cowboys can compensate for an injured DeMarco Murray and how the Broncos can get past the Bengals.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos still find themselves chasing the New England Patriots in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC, so it was fitting quarterback Peyton Manning drop a smattering of references to Patriots coach Bill Belichick following Thursday’s practice.

Oh, not blatant, not by name, but three times Manning offered some variation of “we’re on to Cincinnati’’ in answers about various topics. Earlier this season, the day after the Patriots’ 41-14 Sept. 29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Belichick offered some variation of “we’re on to Cincinnati’’ five times when asked questions about the team.

Thursday, Manning sprinkled three such references within a 7-minute, 10-second interview session.

On Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton saying following Sunday’s win in San Diego the Broncos would win the Super Bowl, Manning said; “I think Terrance has got a lot of confidence, I think that’s a good quality about him. As far as me though, I’m on to Cincinnati.’’

On the prospect of potentially resting players in the season's final week since the Broncos have clinched their fourth consecutive AFC West title, Manning said;

“We’re full speed ahead trying to win this game,’’ Manning said. “That is really all we’re thinking about … you want to keep a winning streak going if you can and keep some momentum … playing a team that, like I said, has a ton on the line and is right in the thick of the playoffs and the division. We’re on to Cincinnati.’’

And as he was about to wrap up the session, Manning was asked if he could speak to how difficult it is for a player to play in a game when sick, as he did, with flu-like symptoms in San Diego.

“No, I can’t. I couldn’t do that," Manning said. "I think I’m past talking about it. So, we’re on to Cincinnati.’’

The Broncos and Patriots are each 11-3, but New England owns the playoff tiebreaker as a result of the 43-21 victory over the Broncos Nov. 2 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The Broncos’ remaining two regular-season games are against the Bengals and the Oakland Raiders.

The Patriots face the New York Jets Sunday and close out the regular season against the Buffalo Bills.
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The NFL Live crew make their picks for Denver at Cincinnati.

Inside Edge: Broncos-Bengals

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
4:05
PM ET


video

ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Denver at Cincinnati.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning participated in Thursday's practice on a limited basis, then left the field for the bulk of the main practice in order to get some treatment on a right thigh injury he suffered late in the first half of Sunday’s victory over the San Diego Chargers.

Manning took part in the team’s walk-through and team stretch, then returned to the locker room once the main practice began. After taking most Wednesdays off in the second half of the 2013 season, this was the first time Manning had left the practice field this season.

Manning
The 38-year-old is expected to practice Friday and was walking without a limp when he left the field to go to the locker room as well as following practice. Because the Broncos play on Monday night in Cincinnati, the players did not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, so Thursday’s practice mirrored what the team would have normally done on a Wednesday.

“He’s day-to-day," said Broncos head coach John Fox, who is routinely reticent on any injury. “Tomorrow’s a new day, we’ll keep you posted."

Manning, who played Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms and received four IVs on Saturday night and Sunday morning, injured his thigh when he rolled out right to throw a 12-yard completion to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders with 5 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

He stayed in the game for the next eight plays, but left the field following a C.J. Anderson run for no gain on a third-and-goal from the Chargers’ 1-yard line. Brock Osweiler finished out the first half; Manning played the entire second half.

“I feel OK," Manning said following practice. Asked if he would be ready to play Monday night, Manning said; “I certainly hope so."

Manning also said after practice that his illness was behind him and he was simply receiving treatment on his leg at the moment to go with his usual work with the strength and conditioning staff, which Manning does each week to prepare for games since he returned from spinal fusion surgery that kept him out the entire 2011 season. And because he's always ready with a quip, Manning gave a nod to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick when Manning answered a smattering of questions with "we're on to Cincinnati."

Also Thursday, linebacker Brandon Marshall (left foot), tackle Paul Cornick (toe on right foot) and running back Juwan Thompson (hip, knee) were also held out of practice.

Running back Ronnie Hillman (left foot), who has missed the last five games, took part on a limited basis Thursday as the Broncos continue to hope he will soon be ready for some situational work in the offense.

Left tackle Ryan Clady (right thigh), center Will Montgomery (knee), tight end Jacob Tamme (ribs) and cornerback Kayvon Webster (right shoulder) all participated Thursday on a limited basis. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (right ankle) and tight end Julius Thomas (left ankle) took part fully in the practice.

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