12/12 22:40 CST Chargers stun Broncos 27-20
Chargers stun Broncos 27-20
AP National Writer
DENVER (AP) --- Peyton Manning wanted more rest. He got plenty Thursday night
thanks to Philip Rivers and a San Diego defense that slowed down Manning and
handed the Broncos an unexpected and harmful loss.
Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and kept the Chargers'
offense on the field for nearly 39 minutes in a 27-20 stunner over the Broncos,
whose easy road to the AFC West title and top seeding in the conference got an
Disorganized on defense and never able to crank things up on offense, the
Broncos gained 13 yards on the 13 plays they ran after taking a 10-3 lead late
in the first quarter. That covered four fruitless drives during which they went
three-and-out three times and picked up a total of one first down.
By that time, San Diego led 24-10, and though the Broncos (11-3) had overcome
double-digit deficits four times this season to win, it wasn't happening this
They pulled within seven and Manning got the ball on the Denver 3 with 5:50
left. He moved the Broncos 30 yards in two plays with the help of a penalty.
But the Chargers' maligned defense produced some pass rush and forced a bad
throw, which linebacker Thomas Keiser picked off at the Denver 33.
The Chargers (7-7) got a field goal to go up 10. Denver answered with a field
goal but couldn't recover the onside kick and the Broncos lost to an AFC West
foe for the first time in 11 games.
Manning's final numbers were decent --- 27 for 41 for 289 yards and two
touchdowns --- but padded during desperation time.
As most veterans do, especially this time of year, he griped about the short
turnaround between a Sunday and Thursday game, the likes of which every team
has to make at least once every season.
Now, he'll get 10 days to rest and chew on this loss --- the first
regular-season defeat at home for Denver in 14 tries, dating to last September
against Houston, back when Manning was still getting his footing in Denver and
the Texans, who happen to be Denver's next opponent, were still good.
The short week didn't bother the Chargers, who gained some confidence when they
scored the final 14 points in a 28-20 loss to the Broncos last month. Doesn't
hurt that they're coached by Manning's former offensive coordinator, Mike
McCoy, who won the opening coin toss and boldly deferred, giving the Manning
the ball first.
Manning used to say that he always felt on the same page with McCoy and nothing
really changed this time. Normally, it's Manning dissecting an opposing
defense, standing at the line and figuring out what it's planning on doing
before it does it. This time, it was the other way around, certainly in part
because McCoy knows how Manning likes to do things.
Chargers defensive backs knocked down two Manning passes at the line of
scrimmage, they wrapped up on Denver's receivers, holding those much-coveted
yards after catch to a minimum after so many of Manning's typically short
timing routes. Not having to worry about Wes Welker, out with a concussion,
they blanketed the other receivers and turned fourth-stringer Bubba Caldwell
into Manning's prime target.
A good bet. Caldwell led Denver with six catches for 59 yards and two
touchdowns, while none of the other Denver receivers did much harm.
Denver's previous low in scoring was 27 points against the Chiefs.
The defense, meanwhile, was poor once again --- not Super Bowl material on this
The most telling sequence came in the third quarter when Rivers moved the
Chargers from their 1 to midfield over 13 plays. Denver committed two costly
penalties --- an offside when San Diego had the punt team out on fourth-and-4,
then a 12-men-on-the-field that set up first-and-5 and allowed the Chargers to
burn more clock. Though they didn't score, they ate 8:20 off the clock and
flipped the field.
The Broncos never recovered and now, they must sweat out the race in the AFC.
Their three losses are now equal with New England and Kansas City. Denver owns
the tiebreaker against the Chiefs but not against the Patriots. Their next two
games are against Houston and Oakland --- combined record 6-20 --- but after a
home loss to another losing team, suddenly anything seems possible.