The Denver Broncos are back on track with Brock Osweiler, though the team doesn't appear to be in a hurry to decide between him and Peyton Manning as the long-term solution at quarterback.
Osweiler looks to lead Denver to a third straight victory Sunday when it visits the San Diego Chargers.
The fourth-year quarterback has been more efficient than Manning since taking over for the injured incumbent, posting an 88.4 passer rating compared to Manning's NFL-worst 67.6. Osweiler has lead the Broncos (9-2) to wins in each of his first two career starts on the heels of back-to-back losses with Manning at the helm.
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He helped rally Denver from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit in last Sunday's 30-24 overtime victory against previously undefeated New England.
“I'm not surprised at all,” receiver Andre Caldwell said. “We've got one of the top defenses and he goes against those guys and doesn't flinch. To go out there and do it every Sunday is no surprise to us.”
Out with a partially torn plantar fascia, Manning, who had the cast removed from his left foot Wednesday, was in attendance and met with Osweiler at halftime to discuss strategy. He figures to be weeks away from returning, and the team tweeted Wednesday no decision has been made regarding the starter beyond this week's game.
“Peyton just had some great ideas about what he saw watching what was going on,” coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. “He had our game plan with him. He started pointing out some things to me about some of the things that he felt good about, and he was echoing that to Brock.”
Osweiler made the right call in overtime on a third-and-one, checking to a run that sprung C.J. Anderson for a game-winning 48-yard touchdown. Anderson, the AFC's Offensive Player of the Week, ran for a season-high 113 yards and another score.
San Diego (3-8) snapped a six-game losing streak with last Sunday's 31-25 win at Jacksonville, at least temporarily quieting the noise that suggested coach Mike McCoy's job may be in jeopardy.
“I'm taking this job one day at a time like I do every day and keep plugging away every day and put great plans in week in and week out,” he said.
Philip Rivers threw for four TDs and 300 yards, becoming the fourth-fastest player to reach 40,000 for his career. He's one TD toss away from passing Vinny Testaverde's 275 for No. 11 all-time.
He faces a tough assignment against a Denver defense leading the NFL with 285.8 yards allowed per game. Rivers owns a 78.9 passer rating while dropping six of the last seven meetings, throwing 12 TDs with 10 interceptions.
“We finally got a victory. We just want to build on it,” said Antonio Gates, who caught two TDs against the Jaguars and had three in last year's series with the Broncos. “What better team to come in to get our second win in a row, a Denver Broncos team that's playing at a high level. If they're not playing the best football in the league, they're one of the top three teams in my opinion right now. We definitely have to be efficient offensively because that defense is flying around and making a lot of plays.”
Though Osweiler has led a more efficient passing attack, Demaryius Thomas continued to underwhelm against New England. Although targeted 13 times, he was held to one reception, is averaging 54.0 yards over his last four games and has only two TDs after scoring at least 10 in each of the past three seasons. He has six TDs in his last six meetings with the Chargers, though, and has gone for 105 or more yards in three of four.
Denver's DeMarcus Ware, who hasn't played since Week 9 due to a back injury, returned to practice Wednesday, though his status for Sunday is unclear. He has 6 1/2 sacks in seven games and needs one-half to pass John Abraham (133 1/2) for the 10th-most all-time.
The Broncos are expected to be without safety T.J. Ward due to a high left ankle sprain and signed Josh Bush to help fortify the secondary's depth. Bush played in three games for Denver earlier this season before being cut.
Nose tackle Sylvester Williams could also be out due to a sprained ankle.