ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Nate Irving knows he's no Von Miller. Still, he's relishing the chance to serve as his stand-in for the Broncos' playoff run now that Denver's star is awaiting surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right knee.
Make that one of his stand-ins.
Irving was the goat in Denver on Dec. 12, the last time the Broncos played at home. He jumped offside while San Diego's Mike Scifres was punting out of his own end zone, giving the Chargers an unexpected first down and allowing them to eat up seven more minutes before Peyton Manning got the ball back.
The Chargers upset the Broncos 27-20 on that night.
The Broncos (13-3) argued Chargers long snapper Mike Windt should have been flagged instead of Irving on that play because he moved the ball ever so slightly before snapping it.
"That's over with," Irving said Friday. "I don't dwell on it. You go back and watch the film. You can see him move the ball. That's what happened. But I could have been more disciplined in not jumping offside."
Irving tried to forget about the flag, not wanting it to lead to more miscues. But it was hard to let it go.
"I felt like that was the reason we lost," Irving said. "They ran more time off the clock, and if I could have given our offense the ball back, it would have been a different outcome. But that's over with, so I don't think about it anymore."
Irving's chance at atonement came sooner than he thought, and truth be told, not in the way he wanted, either.
In Denver's next game, at Houston, Miller tore his right ACL in the opening minutes, ending his star-crossed season that had started with a six-game drug suspension but had begun rounding into shape with the playoffs looming.
As defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio acknowledged, Miller is irreplaceable. Nobody can do everything he does, from setting up anywhere along the line and crashing the pocket to disrupt passers and ball carriers alike, or dropping back at the snap to alter receivers' routes.