Bubby Brister, who started after Elway strained rib muscles during pregame warmups, threw two touchdown passes as the unbeaten Broncos (9-0) defeated the San Diego Chargers, 27-10, Sunday.
Brister completed 20 of 33 passes for 229 yards.
Elway was late coming out of the locker room because of the injury, and Brister played the opening series. Elway played the second series, throwing a 12-yard pass that left him 30 yards shy of 50,000 yards passing for his career. But on third down, he slipped and linebacker Junior Seau fell on him, sidelining Elway for the game.
Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan said Elway originally hurt his ribs against Seattle on Oct. 11.
"John was experiencing some minor pains prior to today," Shanahan said, "but he took every practice snap this week. I believe he pulled some cartilage during warmups. I could see there was agony on his face. I don't know how long he'll be out."
Terrell Davis, the NFL's leading rusher, was held to 69 yards in 20 carries by the Chargers (3-6), who are ranked first in total and rushing defense. Still, Davis scored two touchdowns, one on a four-yard reception and the other on a 24-yard run.
In barely more than half a season, Davis, who has 1,219 yards rushing, set a franchise record for touchdowns with 16. He also tied the team record for rushing touchdowns with 15.
Ed McCaffrey, who caught Brister's other touchdown pass, tied career highs with nine receptions and 133 yards.
San Diego's rookie quarterback Ryan Leaf completed four of 15 passes for 26 yards with an interception before being replaced by Craig Whelihan in the third quarter.