SAN DIEGO -- Peyton Manning crashed to the grass at Qualcomm Stadium lateSunday afternoon, driven to the ground when San Diego Chargers defensive endCorey Liuget wrapped up Manning's legs.
Manning, the Denver Broncos' 37-year-old quarterback, immediately grasped athis right leg. He climbed to his feet, awkwardly took a few steps, and then wentto his knees.
Yes, the Broncos won, beating their AFC West rival 28-20 and improving to 8-1heading into next week's critical game against the undefeated Kansas CityChiefs. But little that happened in the first 10 weeks of the season, let alonethe first 58 minutes of Sunday's game, would matter much if Manning wereseriously injured.
Manning, after spending a few moments screaming at the game officials who hadcharged Denver with a timeout, hobbled back to rejoin his teammates. The goodnews was that before he was hit, Manning completed a pass to wideout DemaryiusThomas - and the first down ensured the Broncos would be able to run out theclock. He handed the ball off twice to running back Knowshon Moreno and twicetook a knee to end the game.
Manning will have an MRI today after the Broncos return to Denver, thoughManning declined to reveal which leg or which part of his body will be checkedout.
"I'm pretty sore. Pretty sore," he said. "They kind of got me twice, in thatlower area."
Manning had an MRI on his ankle two weeks ago and wound up missing onepractice before the Broncos' Week 8 victory against the Washington Redskins. Hedidn't practice during the bye week and was not limited at all in practicesleading up to to the game in San Diego.
Manning thinks today's MRI will serve as "kind of an update" to that earliertest - and he was hoping it would reveal no damage. But Manning did need topause before answering the final question of his nine-minute newsconference.
Is he confident he'll be able to play next week against Kansas City?
"I certainly plan on it," he said.
The undefeated Chiefs (9-0), on their bye this week, have played backupquarterbacks from the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns andBuffalo Bills. Denver's backup quarterback is Brock Osweiler, a second-roundpick in 2012, whose only regular-season experience has been limited minutes ingarbage time of blowout wins.
Osweiler appeared ready to come in for the final few snaps against theChargers, but Manning wouldn't leave the field.
"I didn't think we were going to be running any sprint-outs or naked bootlegs at that point," Manning said. "So I felt OK to stay in and finish itout."
Denver left tackle Chris Clark, sitting in his locker in the back corner ofthe visitor's locker room, needed a couple of moments to try to describe what itfelt like to see Manning take such a hard hit.
"No matter whose guy it was, it doesn't matter. We all take it uponourselves; we can't let that happen," Clark said. "To see that happen, it's justso devastating, and I don't ever want to see that again. I'm sure the other guysfeel the same way."
Before Manning's big hit, he threw for 330 yards and four touchdown passes,including three to Thomas and one to Julius Thomas.
Manning was sacked twice, including a third-quarter hit in which he waschased down from behind and was stripped of the ball - his fifth lost fumble ofthe year. The Chargers (4-5) scored a touchdown two plays later to cut Denver'slead to 28-13 midway through the third quarter.
That was San Diego's first touchdown of the game. Despite dominating time ofpossession in the first half (22:29 to 7:31 for Denver), the Chargers managedonly a pair of field goals on three scoring chances. One drive ended with amissed field goal.
"As you go along, that's critical. You've got to finish and get touchdowns,"Chargers first-year coach Mike McCoy said.
"There are certain situations where you wish you could go back."