Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to Denver Broncos defensive tackle Mitch Unrein (96) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- The MRI determined the hit caused no further damage to Peyton Manning's tender right ankle.
Now, Manning and the Broncos are curious what the NFL thinks of that hit.
Interim coach Jack Del Rio said the Broncos have sent replays to the league offices of Corey Liuget's dive at Manning's ankles in the closing minutes of Denver's 28-20 win over San Diego.
"In the rules, there are certain areas you can hit and certain areas that are supposed to be protected," Del Rio said Monday. "And we thought that got into an area that was supposed to be protected."
Manning, whose ankles have been hurting since games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis last month, stayed down after Liuget dove at him following a completed pass that iced the game with 1:44 left. Manning limped through the rest of the game and in the locker room afterward.
An MRI on Monday showed no further damage to the ankle, which was heavily taped throughout the Chargers game. Del Rio said Manning would play next Sunday in Denver's AFC West showdown against Kansas City. The quarterback's practice schedule will be determined later in the week.
"But he'll definitely play this week," Del Rio said. "He's ready to roll and that's good news."
Though it only lasted a brief moment, the sight of Manning wincing in pain on the ground served as a chilling reminder of how fragile Denver's season could be. Manning added four more touchdowns against the Chargers to bring his total to 33 on the season - tied with Tom Brady for most through nine games in NFL history. But there's still validity to the point Broncos executive John Elway's made when he signed Manning two offseasons ago: "I don't have a Plan B. We're going with Plan A."
On Monday, Del Rio was asked about Manning's backup, Brock Osweiler: "A good young player that is better in his second year than he was as a rookie. Continuing to develop. The arrow is up on him."
Manning got sacked two times against the Chargers and hit five more. He's been sacked a total of 12 times and hit 27 in the seven games since Chris Clark replaced the injured Ryan Clady at left tackle. In three straight games, Clark has allowed Manning to be sacked and stripped from the blind side.
And next up come the Chiefs, who lead the league with 36 sacks, including 11 by Justin Houston and 9 by Tamba Hali.
"We're definitely on high alert, wanting to protect our quarterback," Del Rio said. "We didn't do as well as we can and we needed to yesterday and we've got a big challenge going against a team that's sacked quarterbacks more than any team in the league."
Manning, who did not speak to reporters Monday, acknowledged after the game that he'd been having some trouble with the ankles the last few weeks.
"I'm pretty sore," he said. "They got me twice and I was hoping to make some progress after the bye week, but I'm pretty sore."
Notes: Del Rio said there was no structural damage to LB Nate Irving's shoulder and said the team was hopeful Irving could return to practice this week. ... The coach reported "no rust" in his first game serving as a head coach since November 2011, when he was let go by the Jaguars. He said coach John Fox was watching from his home in North Carolina. "I told him we were trying to make it a little bit easier finish for him. I was sorry we couldn't extend the lead and make it where he could rest comfortably at home," Del Rio said. ... CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sacrificed his starting spot Sunday to Quentin Jammer, a first-round pick of the Chargers in 2002 who was playing his first game in San Diego as a visitor. "That was cool," Del Rio said.