04 October 2015: Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips in action during a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
Denver Broncos

Broncos’ defense shines despite losing coordinator

Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

One of the best moments of the game for the Denver Broncos’ defense turned out to be one of its worst.

Reserve cornerback Bradley Roby returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. However, on the play, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was injured when San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon inadvertently barreled into him after being blocked out of bounds while trying to catch Roby.

It all ended well, though.

The Broncos went on to a 27-19 victory over the Chargers on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.

Meanwhile, the 69-year-old Phillips was released from an area hospital Sunday night. He is expected back at work Monday even though he was placed on a stretcher and removed from the field on a cart.

Gordon upended Phillips, and the back of the veteran coach’s head slammed against the ground. After being attended to by medical personnel for five minutes, Phillips was secured on a backboard and pointed his index finger in the air while being carted to the locker room.

“When Wade went down, it was like, ‘Man, what’s going on?’” Roby told reporters after the game. “But all signs were saying that he’s good and he’ll be fine. Reggie, our linebackers coach, was like, ‘I got this, I got you.’ And we just rallied around him.”

Linebackers coach Reggie Herring took over the defensive play-calling duties. He received a game ball from head coach Gary Kubiak.

“I got on the headset a couple of times and he told me shut the hell up, he’s got it,” Kubiak said.

Phillips was also upended by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant last season during the Broncos’ victory in an AFC divisional round playoff game. He popped up quickly that time and continued to coach.

The Broncos won their second straight following a two-game losing streak. At 6-2, they remained tied for first place with the Raiders in the AFC West, with the teams set for a showdown next Sunday at Oakland.

The defense made a big late-game stop after Brandon McManus’ 22-yard field goal with 5:19 remaining gave the Broncos an eight-point lead.

The Chargers drove to the Denver 2 with 2:40 remaining, but cornerback Lorenzo Doss broke up a fourth-down pass by Philip Rivers in the end zone that was intended for tight end Hunter Harvey.

The Chargers got the ball back but again turned it over on downs at their 46 when a pass by Rivers, who was pressured by defensive end Derek Wolfe, intended for running back Melvin Gordon fell incomplete with 1:12 left.

Roby’s pick-six came with 9:10 left in the first half and put the Broncos ahead for good, 10-7. That was one of three interceptions for the Broncos; safeties T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby had the others.

Roby, starting in place of injured Pro Bowler Aqib Talib (back), scored the Broncos’ third defensive touchdown of the season when he pulled in a pass that deflected off the hands of wide receiver Tyrell Williams.

Roby took off down the left sideline, outrunning tackle Joe Barksdale and dodging Rivers near the goal line on his way to the end zone.

“When Talib said he wasn’t playing, I just looked at it as I have to step up and use this opportunity to get better,” Roby said.

Stewart’s 25-yard interception return early in the second half gave the Broncos the ball at the Chargers’ 10. That set up Devontae Booker’s 3-yard touchdown run that stretched the lead to 17-7 with 12:45 to go in the third quarter.

While the defense enabled the Broncos to take the lead, it also put Denver in an early hole by allowing the Chargers to drive 65 yards in seven plays on their first drive for a touchdown. Rivers’ 7-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates put San Diego ahead 7-3 with 7:24 left in the third quarter.

The Broncos have allowed opponents to score touchdowns on their first drives in six of eight games this season.

Ward also had 10 tackles, a defended pass and one of the Broncos’ four sacks of Rivers, who was hit a total of 17 times. The picks and sacks helped the Broncos prevail on a day when the Chargers held a 369-324 edge in total yardage.

“They’re a great defense,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “They feed off the turnovers. It starts up front with their front getting after the quarterback. There were some tipped balls in there, things like that. It creates problems for you.”

Broncos’ defense shines despite losing coordinator

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