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Broncos 28, Chargers 20

Broncos hold off the Chargers

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning stayed on the ground nad grimaced in pain after a tackle by the Chargers’ Corey Liuget.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning stayed on the ground nad grimaced in pain after a tackle by the Chargers’ Corey Liuget.

SAN DIEGO — John Fox sent text messages to several Denver Broncos on Sunday morning, wishing them good luck against the San Diego Chargers.

The Broncos will reciprocate by giving a game ball to their coach, who’s at his offseason home in Charlotte, N.C., recovering from heart surgery.

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With interim coach Jack Del Rio in charge, Peyton Manning threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, three to Demaryius Thomas, as he efficiently led the Broncos to a 28-20 victory in their first game since Fox had his aortic valve replaced last Monday.

‘‘We look forward to giving it to him in person,’’ Manning said.

Fox planned to watch the game on TV, a team spokesman said. If he watched, he probably didn’t like seeing Manning hurting his right ankle when he was hit by Corey Liuget as the Broncos ran out the clock in the closing minutes. Manning stayed in the game.

Manning wouldn’t be specific about his injury, but said he was ‘‘pretty sore’’ and that he planned to have an MRI on Monday.

Manning was hurt after completing a pass to Thomas with 1:44 left.

‘‘We were playing aggressively to win the game right there,’’ Del Rio said. ‘‘He made a throw, D.T. made a catch and that was the ballgame. He got up and didn’t want to come off — very proud guy — and closed out the game for us.’’

Asked about playing in the Broncos’ showdown with AFC West leader Kansas City (9-0) next Sunday night, Manning said: ‘‘I totally plan on it.’’

Manning kept the Broncos (8-1) rolling. He threw touchdown passes of 11, 7, and 34 yards to Thomas on consecutive drives spanning the second and third quarters, staking the Broncos to a 28-6 lead.

Julius Thomas had a 74-yard catch-and-run on Denver’s first drive, turning a short pass into the second-longest play by a tight end in team history.

Liuget said his hit on Manning wasn’t intentional. “I was trying to get to him because I knew how critical it could be to us as a defense to get to him. I was just working it and trying to be the guy. I’m not sure how I caught him but I hope he is OK. It’s not anything that is going to stop him from being Peyton Manning.’’

The Broncos’ scoring drives lasted 57 seconds; 2 minutes, 27 seconds; 1:25; and 3:26.

‘‘You knew it wasn’t going to be many possessions and we had to be efficient when we had the ball,’’ Manning said.

Manning has thrown for 3,249 yards and 33 touchdowns in nine games. He completed 25 of 36 passes against the Chargers.

San Diego (4-5) closed the gap late in the second half but couldn’t catch up.

The Chargers were inside the Denver 23 three times in their first four possessions and had to settle for field goals of 26 and 40 yards by Nick Novak. Novak was wide left on a 37-yard attempt with 1:38 left before halftime.

‘‘Three opportunities, you get 6 points and they score 28,’’ said Chargers coach Mike McCoy, who was Denver’s offensive coordinator the past four seasons. ‘‘As you go along that is critical. When you play Peyton you have to get touchdowns. We’ve just got to do a better job.’’

Manning’s big afternoon was marred only when rookie linebacker Tourek Williams hit Manning from behind and knocked the ball loose, with Donald Butler recovering at the Denver 11 midway through the third quarter. Two plays later, Philip Rivers found Danny Woodhead for a 7-yard TD pass.

The Chargers pulled to 28-20 on Ryan Mathews’s 1-yard TD run with 10:42 to play.

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