Sick, sore Manning beats the Bolts, Broncos take AFC West title
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, right, scores past San Diego Chargers defensive back Jahleel Addae during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in San Diego.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers complains to side judge Jeff Lamberth during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in San Diego.
Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, left, hauls in a pass under pressure from San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Four bags of intravenous fluid and an AFC West championship made Peyton Manning feel a whole lot better.
Manning came into Sunday's game with flu-like symptoms, and then hurt his right thigh.
It was all good, though.
Manning threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter and Connor Barth kicked five field goals to lead Denver to a 22-10 victory against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday that clinched the Broncos' fourth straight division title.
"He was sick. I don't think it was Jordan game flu sick, but he was sick," running back C.J. Anderson said, referring to how sick Michael Jordan was when he scored 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
"He went out there and battled," Anderson added. "He battled the Chargers' D, battled the crowd, battled the adversity and battled himself. That's a lot of battles going on in one man's lifetime right now. But he went out there and overcame it and helped us out with a 'W' today."
Here are some things learned from Denver's victory:
SICK QUARTERBACK: Manning said he first started feeling ill Saturday evening.
"I had a rough night. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't an enjoyable night," Manning said. "It came out of nowhere."
Manning came out of the game late in the second quarter. He said he was hurt while scrambling to his right and completing a pass to Emmanuel Sanders. Three plays later, he blocked linebacker Donald Butler on a run by Anderson.
The Broncos had to settle for a field goal and Manning headed to the locker room while Brock Osweiler led an unproductive series.
"I was in some discomfort and had some limitations," Manning said. "If you can't do your job, you can't move, if you hurt yourself, you hurt the team."
The Broncos (11-3) won their fourth straight game and are tied with New England for the AFC's best record. New England beat the Broncos 43-21 on Nov. 2.
Denver's 12th straight division road win tied San Francisco's NFL record set from 1987-90.
GAME'S ONLY TD: Manning was one of the last Broncos out of the locker room for the start of the second half, cheered on by the thousands of Broncos fans at Qualcomm Stadium.
"We were unsure at halftime to be honest with you, until Peyton made the cavalry entrance there at the start of the third quarter," coach John Fox said. "I think it's a tribute to the kind of toughness Peyton has and the kind of competitor he is that he got up and did a tremendous job in those conditions."
Manning was back in time for Denver's first possession of the third quarter. He capped the second possession with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Thomas to give the Broncos a 16-3 lead.
PASSING PEYTON: Manning completed 14 of 20 passes for 233 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He extended his own NFL record to 14 seasons with 4,000 yards passing.
A week earlier, Manning's touchdown streak came to a halt at 51 games, three shy of Drew Brees' NFL record.
SLUMPING SAN DIEGO: The Chargers (8-6) entered the game as the AFC's No. 6 seed and saw their wild-card chances diminished. They lost a week earlier to New England.
"It's just a two-game streak against the two top teams in the conference," said Philip Rivers, who threw one touchdown pass and was intercepted twice. "We're not in their company yet. It's not like we've lost to the bottom of the barrel."
GATES: San Diego pulled within six points when Antonio Gates caught a 5-yard pass from Rivers with 10:13 left. Gates joined Rob Gronkowski as the only tight ends in NFL history with four seasons with at least 10 touchdown catches.