Manning, Sanders lead Broncos past Chargers, 35-21
DENVER (AP) -- Emmanuel Sanders is speedy, not greedy.
The Denver Broncos' fleet wide receiver insisted he wasn't lobbying Peyton Manning to throw him a fourth touchdown pass Thursday night.
He was perfectly satisfied with his trio of scoring catches in the Broncos' 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
This is exactly what Sanders was talking about when he called Denver "wide receiver heaven" upon his arrival in free agency in the offseason.
"Of course, that's the reason why I came here," Sander said. "This is a great organization with a great head coach and Peyton Manning at the helm. I wanted to go to a team that spread the football around, that's going to throw it, because that's what I was used to in college.
"I'm just happy to be part of it and hopefully we just keep throwing that football."
That's a safe bet.
Less than 100 hours after breaking Brett Favre's record for most career TD throws, Manning put up another masterpiece. He completed 25 of 35 passes for 286 yards and three TDs with no interceptions and no sacks.
The Broncos (6-1) took early control of the AFC West over the Chargers (5-3), losers of two straight.
"They're better than us right now," San Diego safety Eric Weddle said. "That's the reality of it. It's a long season. When we meet them again, however many more times, we'll be better."
Just last week, Sanders was wistfully wishing to join the list of players who have caught one of Manning's TD throws. Then, he caught his first Sunday night, when Manning threw four of them in a rout of the San Francisco 49ers.
Now, he's suddenly his favorite target.
"I feel like on any given night it could be anybody's night," Manning said. "I feel like that's a reason all those guys are playing so well, because they're all running full-speed routes. We're trying to get everybody involved. Certainly sometimes it's going to be one guy's night over another. But all of them played well and of course Emmanuel was great down there around the end zone."
Other takeaways from Denver's latest statement win:
GROUND GAME: Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman might have officially "Wally Pipp'd" Montee Ball, who's out with a groin injury. With a career-best 109 yards on 20 carries, Hillman has rushed for 283 yards on 58 carries in Ball's absence.
Hillman is hitting the hole faster than the pitter-pattering Ball did, giving the Broncos a legitimate ground game to go with Manning's passing prowess.
"I think he's grown," coach John Fox said of the third-year running back who didn't even play in Denver's first two games. "He's an explosive player and has been since he got here. He is way more comfortable in the offense."
While Hillman did the heavy lifting, rookie Juwan Thompson scored twice on short runs.
"That's all right. He earns them," Hillman said. "That's a tough 2 yards to get. I'm just playing my role getting him down there."
CALLED OUT: The scoreboard operator at Sports Authority Field did what the Chargers couldn't: rattle Manning.
Manning wasn't happy when the Broncos were trying to chew up the clock in the closing minutes and the crowd was going crazy. That forced Manning to try to quiet down a stadium of 76,907 by himself, frantically waving his arms like a big bird, then shaking his head in disbelief.
"I have no problem with our fans. Our fans are great," Manning said. "I've got a problem with our scoreboard operator. I've got to have a little talk with him.
"I'm not sure what he's doing, he's playing music and showing players dancing and getting the crowd fired up when we have the ball. I don't think we should be doing that. I don't think we should be showing their quarterback on the sideline. I thought that was disrespectful. Our fans are great. Our fans our loud. Our scoreboard operator, it wasn't his best night."
TERRIFIC TIGHT ENDS: This game featured the top two tight ends on the NFL: Denver's Julius Thomas and San Diego's Antonio Gates. Thomas, in a mini slump, caught just two of six passes thrown his way and was held out of the end zone for the second time in five nights.
Gates caught two TDs, tying him with Thomas atop the NFL with nine.
With five catches for 54 yards, Gates became the Chargers' career leader in yards receiving with 9,610, breaking the mark set by Hall of Fame WR Lance Alworth (9,584).
MANNING'S RECORDS: The five-time MVP isn't through with the three-time MVP.
Manning broke another of Favre's records on this night, albeit a much more obscure one: he now has 16 seasons with 20 or more touchdown passes, one more than Favre. And he's approaching another of Favre's marks: with his 157th career multiple-TD game, Manning is two shy of Favre's mark in that category.
Notes: Demaryius Thomas (eight catches for 105 yards) set the Broncos record with his fourth straight 100-yard game. ... Von Miller has sacks in six straight games, tying a career high, and leads the league with nine.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton