ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Last week, Chris Harris marveled at how much Denver's injury-riddled defense had changed and how not a single player who started against Baltimore in last year's playoffs would start at the same position against San Diego on the anniversary of that crushing loss.
"We've lost so many guys," he said, shaking his head. "We've gotten good at keeping that next-man-up mentality."
On Monday, it was his turn to get the bad news: He'll miss the rest of the Broncos' playoff run after an MRI showed he had a torn ACL in his left knee that will require surgery and at least six months of rehab.
"There's no doubt he's one of our better performers on defense throughout this season, but ... we've lost some pretty good performers throughout the season and this team's been resilient," coach John Fox said.
Harris was injured in the third quarter of Denver's 24-17 win Sunday against San Diego.
Fox wouldn't say if Quentin Jammer will start in the AFC title game when the Broncos (14-3) host the Patriots (13-4) this weekend.
"It's a long list, a long cast," Fox said. "If I knew right now, I wouldn't say anyways."
Fox's options include moving Champ Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler who's been relegated to slot duty after returning from a nagging foot injury last month, back outside or inserting rookie Kayvon Webster into the starting lineup opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Webster is playing with a cast on his right thumb, which he broke in two places a month ago.
Another option is dusting off Tony Carter, who was one of the goats in Denver's 34-31 overtime loss Nov. 24 at New England when a punt hit his leg, the Patriots recovered and Stephen Gostkowski kicked the game-winning 31-yard field goal.
After Harris got hurt, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers staged a comeback from a 17-point deficit largely by targeting Harris' rusty replacement, Jammer. It fell short, however, when Peyton Manning was able to keep Rivers on the sideline over the final 3 minutes, 51 seconds by converting a trio of third downs.
Jammer surrendered a 49-yard completion to Keenan Allen on fourth-and-5 from the Chargers' 25 with seven minutes left that helped turn a comfortable cruise into a nail-biter.
"When Chris went down, things started to unravel a little bit on the back end," safety Mike Adams said. "Jam, I'm not worried about him. He gave up a big play, but he could bounce back. He's been in the league a long time. We've all had bad games before."