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Preview: Broncos at Chargers
SAN DIEGO – Much has changed since the Chargers’ dominating first three quarters in Denver on Oct. 9.
San Diego (4-6) took a fairly low-risk offensive approach in steadily building a 26-10 fourth-quarter lead. Denver (5-5) entered the final 15 minutes with just five first downs and 114 total yards between quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.
Orton entered the game as the Broncos’ starter. Now he’s on the Chiefs’ roster, released earlier this week by Denver. That Week 5 game at Sports Authority Field marked the beginning of a new season for the mile-high franchise.
Tebow has just two turnovers in five games as a starter since, both in a loss to Detroit, and has accounted for eight touchdowns while going 4-1.
Denver’s defense has held Miami, Kansas City and the New York Jets to a combined 38 points during the current streak. The Broncos, in turn, scored 38 points in Oakland.
“We all knew that (Tebow) has substance,” Takeo Spikes said. “Whether you like it or not, he is able to rally the guys around him.
“I think he gets a lot of credit, but the entire football team is playing better on special teams and defensively to put him in position so he can chew up the clock and be able to make the plays in crunch time.”
It’s up to the Chargers to halt Denver’s unconventional offense, prevent speed rushers Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller from harassing Philip Rivers and do a better job covering kicks than against Chicago and Devin Hester last week.
History has proven to mean nothing, but San Diego has played Denver well in recent years, winning nine of the last 11 games in the series and four straight. Rivers, especially, has thrived against the Broncos, whom he’s 9-2 against as a starter. The quarterback also has beaten six different Denver defensive coordinators in the last six years.
Seventy-five quarterbacks have played at least four games and thrown at least 50 passes against the Broncos. None can claim a quarterback rating higher than Rivers (105.6), who has thrown for 2,874 yards and 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions while facing Denver.
Rivers and the offense need to return to that sort of efficiency against a defense that’s thrived of late. Ryan Mathews, limited at times this week with knee soreness, looks ready to chase his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game against Denver. Vincent Jackson is coming off monster games in two of the last three outings, and Rivers played one of his best games of the season last week against Chicago before two late interceptions.
There’s too many games left to be hyper-concerned about the overall picture in the AFC West, particularly after a five-game losing streak – San Diego’s focus understandably has been on finding a way to beat Denver.
But two games behind Oakland with six to play, opportunities will dwindle in a hurry and the Chargers must take advantage, particularly against a division opponent at Qualcomm Stadium. Head Coach Norv Turner’s teams are 10-4 against the AFC West at home.
Bottom line, this one game will not make or break San Diego’s season, but it’s beyond important to win Sunday.
“The book’s not over. We’ve still got work to do,” Rivers said. “We really are going to determine the end to the story. A lot of people may have already put the book down, but we’re going to fight like crazy to make this a special season.
“The only way it’s going to happen is to win a game.”