By Curtis Egan
<em>BoltTalk Staff Writer</em>
<img src="http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/sp/getty/96/fullj.getty-75557894cp016_san_diego_cha.jpg" alt="DENVER - OCTOBER 07: Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates with Antonio Gates #85 after scoring on a 15 yard touchdown reception against the Denver Broncos during the third quarter of the game at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 7, 2007 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)" align="right" height="268" width="183" /><strong>The Hype:</strong>
Chargers have not won in Denver in back to back season since before the AFL NFL merger, typically the talking heads would indicate there is little chance of it happening now. But that is before you take a look at things in more detail.
The Broncos have the next to last running defense in the league, they have been escorting runners into the end zone with regularity. Their pass defense was cut apart by the Colts as well. The Chargers enter Invesco field with a running game that got back on track last week, and the leagues leading receiving Tight End, Antonio Gates.
The Chargers will be able to, upon establishing the run, to use the short to intermediate passing game to their big bodies receivers Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and Craig Davis. However Rivers has not been able to hit the long passes, and the Broncos secondary are not the people you want to roll the dice against. The Chargers need to limit their signal caller to high percentage passes and allow him and the entire offensive unit to build confidence.
There will be match ups to make most fans smile. The weather is expected to be cool and a possibility of showers. If the showers come, look for the Chargers to establish the running game and to continue to hit the Broncos at the line of scrimmage to control the game.
Both teams will have to control the ball and prevent the turnovers. Both Quarterbacks, Phillip Rivers for the Chargers, and Jay Cutler for the Broncos have more interceptions than touchdown passes on the season. Both are not handling the pressure well. However the Chargers have not fared as well this season as they did last in pressuring the passer.
The Chargers will have to pressure the Cutler and make his put the ball up for grabs. The Chargers while beleaguered on pass defense have been able to make plays when the quarterback is pressured. They will need to create that pressure to force the Broncos to slow the game down and try to establish the run to create play action pass opportunities.
The Broncos want to force the Chargers into third and long situations, to force Rivers to throw into the strength of their defense. They will place Dre Bly on Antonio Gates in an attempt to protect their Safety John Lynch who are ailing and may be a game time decision. Their backup Safety Hamza Abdullah is out till late in October. The Broncos will be forced to drop a linebacker into coverage when the Chargers run a receiver into the center of the field.
There is no sign of the rain forecasted as the teams begin the game. It is a sunny game, and it looks like good football weather!
The Broncos open with the ball and run the ball with Running Back Travis Hennry, who promptly runs into big Jamal Williams. Then they throw the ball out in front of Chargers Cornerback Quentin Jammer for the first down. The Broncos continue to try and run and get no where, but they spread the field and pick up yet another first down in front of Jammer.
Again the Broncos try a run and it is becoming apparent that the Broncos are not going to have an easy time on the ground. They then throw to Broncos Wide Receiver on 3rd down and it is broken up by Jammer forcing the punt.
Running Back, Darren Sproles takes the punt and returns it 23 yards to the 30 yard line where the Chargers behind Quarterback Philip Rivers take over. The Chargers go directly to the Run, giving the ball to LaDanian Tomlinson who is dropped for a loss of 4. Another run to Tomlinson brings up a 3rd and 12. The Chargers then run a screen to Tomlinson which breaks open for a 36 yard gain.
The Chargers continue to try and establish the run with another run to Tomlinson for 2. Rivers then throws downfield to connect with Gates for 23 yards. The Chargers are in the Red Zone and Rivers throws to Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson in the end zone, and the pass is incomplete. They then throw to Gates who catches it at the five and takes it to the two yard line. The pass protection on the drive is good. Rivers then does what rarely occurs, that is lumber into the end zone for the touchdown. This is his first career rushing touchdown. This was the first time the Broncos has allowed a opening series touchdown in 22 games.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 7, Broncos 0.
On the ensuing kick, Chargers Line Backer Carlos Polk knocks the ball out of the return man's arm, Line Backer Brandon Siler picks up the ball and returns it for the special teams score! As stated before, the turnovers will make or breaks this game. The Broncos have cracked first but there is a lot of game left.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 14, Broncos 0.
The Chargers kick off again for the touchback. The Broncos offense and Quarterback Jay Cutler take over at their 20 yard line, playing from behind early. The Broncos open the drive with a pass for 9 yards to their Tight End, Nate Jackson, and then they get two on the ground to get the first down.
The next play Clinton Hart draws a pass interferences call, going over the receiver before the ball gets there. Fifteen yards gift wrapped for the Broncos. Henry then runs for five yards on the ground. The Broncos then throw for two big gains first a 19 yard gain to the Tight End Tony Scheffler, then to Brandon Marshall, however, with the Marshal reception, Chargers Safety Marlon McCree knocks the ball out and San Diego recovers on the second Bronco turnover.
Chargers then give the ball to Tomlinson twice, in which he gains nearly 20 yards. Rivers then uses the play action pass but finds no one open and throws it away. They go back to the ground for a 7 yard gain by Tomlinson. The Chargers are looking balanced and focused on offense today.
The next run Tomlinson gets the first down with another 6 yards run. The Chargers continue to move the chains against the Denver defense. Running Back Michael Turner takes a run to give Tomlinson a short breather as the first quarter comes to an end.
<strong>Rivers</strong> 3/5 for 68 yards
<strong>Tomlinson</strong> 7 carries for 37 yards, 1 reception for 36 yards.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 14, Broncos 0
The Chargers run to Tomlinson to start the second quarter, and they lose a yard. The Chargers face a 3rd and 8, the pass goes to Gates who gains 13 on the pass, again pass protection gives Rivers the chance to let the play develop.
Rivers throws a short pass to Tomlinson who takes the ball up to the 13 yard line on a gain of 29 yards. They run to Tomlinson for 3 more yards. At this point some of the bronco fans begin to boo as Tomlinson rushes again bringing up a 3rd and 5. On the third down play Rivers throws for Tomlinson in an incomplete pass as the Chargers go for the field goal. The field goal is easily good.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 17, Broncos 0
The next kick off the Broncos return to the 22 yard line where they will take over. Denver starts out in the shotgun and passes to Tight End Daniel Graham for five yards. They then run for 3 yards bringing up and 3rd and 2. Denver takes a time out just before the play which would have been a first down.
The Broncos get a first down on the pass to Marshall right in front of Cornerback Drayton Florence. They then attempt a screen which is broken up by Chargers Defensive End Jacques Cesare. They then run right into Line Backer s Shawne Merriman, and Shaun Philips for no gain. On 3rd and long Corner Back Antonio Cromartie comes in to break up the play. The broncos are forced to punt. Sproles only manages a 4 yard return on the punt, which was actually a good return as he was surrounded by Broncos the whole time.
The Chargers open up the series on their 16 with a run to Tomlinson that is stuffed after a one yard gain. The Broncos are crowding the line of Scrimmage now, and the next play Rivers has a pass batted down by a Bronco. The Chargers run to Tomlinson for four yards which was erased by an off sides call against the Broncos. On 3rd and 4 the Chargers are in shotgun, and they run a draw to Tomlinson for two yards, forcing the punt.
The Broncos run the ball with Henry for a gain of 9. They run again for a gain of three to Henry and move the chains. They Run to Henry again for a 1 yard gain, and a flag is thrown for offensive holding. The Broncos throw the ball and the receiver throws the ball towards Philips who stops the play for a short gain. Cutler throws again for another short gain brining up 3rd and 5 to go. The third straight pass play gets the Broncos a first down in front of the Charger Defender.
The Broncos return to the ground and Henry stiff arms Hart to break out for a 13 yard gain. They keep it on the ground for another 5 yards bringing up the two minute warning.
The Broncos are in the red zone for the first time today. The Broncos pass the ball incomplete on their first play, They are stopped on 3rd and 6 as hart stops the receiver in the open field with a solo tackle, forcing the 30 yard field goal try.
The Field goal is good, <strong>Chargers</strong> 17, Broncos 3
The ensuing kickoff is taken a yard deep by Sproles and returned to the 21 yard line. Chargers return to the ground as Tomlinson gets 2 more yards. Tomlinson then runs it for another 11 yards as the Chargers call timeout with 26 seconds left in the half.
Turner then breaks a 49 yard run to put San Diego is scoring position as they call another time out with 13 seconds left in the half. Rivers then over throws the pass to the corner of the endzone with leave 6 seconds on the clock and they bring out the kicking team. The field goal is good but a flag is on the field. Holding on San Diego, Tight End Brandon Manulmaleuna flagged for the hold. The kick is attempted again from 45 yards out. The kick is again good.
<strong>Rivers</strong> 5/10 for 110 yards
<strong>Tomlinson</strong> 14 carries for 55 yards, 2 reception for 65 yards.
<strong>Turner</strong> 2 carries for 52 yards.
<strong>Gates</strong> 3 receptions for 45 yards.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 20, Broncos 3
The Chargers open the second half receiving the ball first. Sproles takes the kick off and returns it to the 26 yard line. The Chargers need to continue to score and put pressure on Denver. The Chargers begging with a four yard run to Tomlinson. Rivers then throws to Tomlinson as he began to feel the pressure, the pass was good for the first down. Rivers then hits Jackson for a nice receptions for 24 yards. Tomlinson the gets two more yards as a flag is thrown for offensive holding. On the next play a false start is called against Jackson backing up the Chargers for a 1st and 25. Tomlinson is then dropped in the backfield for a loss of three as another flag is thrown. This one a delay of game on Tomlinson for spiking the ball. 1st and 33 for the Chargers.
Rivers hits Jackson in stride for a first down, Jackson ran a beautiful rout and beat the defense. Rivers threw a perfect ball for a 45 yard gain. The Chargers take a time out as they continue the drive. The Chargers continue to grind it on the ground as Tomlinson picks up another yard. Bailey is limping into and out of the huddle. The next play Rivers tried to hit Tomlinson on a short pass, Tomlinson was interfered with and the flag was thrown against Nate Webster. Chargers are on the 12 yard line and run Tomlinson again who carries the ball to the 9 yard line. Rivers then fakes the handoff to Tomlinson and hits Gates for a 9 yard touchdown pass as he rolled to the open side of the field.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 27, Broncos 3
The Broncos kneel in the end zone on the kickoff for the touchback. They will take over on the 20 yard line as they try and get back into the game. They begin running Henry, first one is for a loss of a yard, the second one is for a gain of five, brining up 3rd and 5. Cutler then hits his receiver for the first down, but Jammer hits the ball out and Hart returns the ball to the 10 yard line.
Denver challenges the play feeling their receiver was down before the ball came out. The Chargers need to be able to get in and get the play off quickly in these situations to prevent challenges.
The ruling on the field was overturned and Denver retains the ball and gets the first down. The ball was moving and could have gone either way. Denver starts moving against by throwing a play action pass for 14 yards which is caught right in front of Florence. The Broncos continue passing, again hitting for another first down. The Chargers secondary is hitting hard, but not stopping the pass.
The next pass in intercepted at the goal line by McCree and returned to the 21 yards line.
The Chargers continue to plug away on the ground as Turner runs ahead for a short gain. Turner is then stopped in the backfield as Denver is stacking the line of scrimmage against the run. Rivers then connects with Gates for a first down and a 13 yard gain in front of Bronco defender, John Lynch. They return to the run which sees Tomlinson stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Rivers then goes back to the air striking Gates running down the middle if the field for 34 yards.
Broncos then sack Rivers for the first time today, dropping him for a loss of five yards. The Chargers face a 2nd and 15 at the Denver 35 yard line. The Chargers do not go away from the ground, giving it to Tomlinson who picks up six more. They Chargers are controlling the clock at this point. Rivers then hits Gates for yet another first down as Denver has difficulties defending the pass against Gates.
Tomlinson continues to run into the teeth of the Bronco's defense, gaining another 2 yards by pushing the Bronco's defenders backwards. Rivers then hits Jackson for a touchdown. A beautiful pass to the corner of the end zone, Rivers put the ball over Dre Bly for the score, and grabbing control of the game with 7 seconds left in the 3rd quarter..
<strong>Chargers</strong> 34, Broncos 3
The Broncos take the ball on the 20 yard line and muff the first snap, the recover the ball, losing 2 yards on the muffed snap. The Broncos start the fourth as Cutler is forced to scramble ahead for a short gain avoiding the sack. They face a 3rd and 8. They try a shovel pass to Selvin Young, the Running Back as they are forced to punt.
The Chargers continue to grind the clock, they are not letting up at all, Rivers is showing game control we haven't seen since last season. Another run brings up 3rd and long. Sproles gets a carry and the Chargers go three and out.
The Broncos block the punt and get the ball at the 22 yard line. The Chargers looked to have recovered the ball but he referee calls it for the Broncos. They start to hit the receivers looking to put a touchdown on the board. The next play is an incomplete pass. The rain is falling now in Denvers, as the Chargers drop Henry for a loss of four yards on the 3rd down play. A flag is throw for offensive holding, bringing up fourth down. The Broncos go for it and is stopped as Hart and Luis Castillo make the stop, getting the ball back on downs. The Chargers dodge a bullet there.
The Chargers go back to the ground as Turner gains 12 yards and the clock continues to grind towards the end of the game. The next play Turner takes the ball and runs 74 yards to pay dirt down the sideline. The defense never got close to Turner.
<strong>Chargers</strong> 41, Broncos 3
With just over 9 minutes left the Chargers have taken full control of the game, if they can hold on for the win the Chargers will do something they have never done since the NFL and AFL merger. Win in Denver in back to back season. There is time left though and no fat lady is singing yet.
The Broncos return to the ground with little success on the run, gaining 2. On 3rd and 9 Cutler hits his receiver for 23 yards in the center of the field. Cutler then throws for Marshall who is streaking for the end zone which is broken up by Florence. A flag is thrown against the Chargers which gives the Broncos a new set of downs, which they use to throw for another first down. The next play sees Chargers Linebacker Stephen Cooper getting the first Charger sack of the day.
The next play sees Eric Weddle cut in and bat the ball down, the next play brings up a short pass completion that leads to a 4th and 12 yard down. Denver goes for it and the pass is incomplete. The Chargers get the ball on downs.
The Chargers put Quarterback Billy Volek into the game and the hand off is to Fullback Lorenzo Neal for a short gain. The next play is another run for a short gain. The Chargers face a 3rd and 6 down and run Michael Turner who gained 3 yards bringing on the punting situation. The ball bounces into the end zone for the touch back.
The Broncos return to the air, and on the second play the Chargers narrowly miss an interception. The Broncos convert the down with an 11 pass yard to receiver Glenn Martinez. The Broncos then run the ball to Henry who gains another first down. The next run takes the game to the two minute warning, as Henry gains two yards on the ground. The next pass is stopped short of the first down, as San Diego takes their last time out of the game. The next pass is dropped by the receiver who had the first down. This brings up a 4th and 1 situation that Denver will go for. The ball is nearly picked off as the ball is again turned over on downs.
After a few kneel downs, the Chargers pin the biggest home loss on the Broncos since the NFL AFL merger.
<strong> The Good!:</strong>
<em><strong>Offensive Line: </strong></em> Rivers had great protection today, he only suffered one sack. The big bodies did a good job opening holes and giving Rivers the time he needed to take control of the game.
<em><strong>Rivers: </strong></em> 13 for 18 for 270 yards and 2 touchdown passes. Rivers protected the ball and looked in control. He had an excellent game that should prove to be a confidence boost for him and the rest of the team.
<em><strong>Tomlinson: </strong></em> 21 carries for 67 yards may not seem like a lot, but he also had 3 receptions for 76 yards. He fought hard for yards and kept the chains moving.
<em><strong>Gates: </strong></em> Simply the best! The best Tight End in the league. He again led Chargers receivers in receptions and passing yards with 7 receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. He is as constant as the North Star, and the mainstay of the Chargers offense this season.
<em><strong>Siler: </strong></em> Big boy gets his first touchdown as he picks up the broncos fumble on special teams and runs it in for the 6.
<em><strong>Cromartie: </strong></em> Made a key stop on a third down where the receiver would have had the first and yards to run. He added another solo tackle in his limited playing time.
<em><strong>Pass defense: </strong></em> The pass defense was shaky at best tonight, a bend and only break a little bit defense that more reactive and less aggressive. Luckily it was a day when the pass only caused the D to bend.
The Chargers sent a message today. "We are not done yet!" Do not write them off yet because they are starting to click again. The next game against the Raiders will be for the lead in the division. It will also be a game the Chargers cannot look past as the Raiders are improved and coming off a bye.
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