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Scouting Report: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos
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The San Diego Chargers host the Denver Broncos in a pivotal AFC West clash between two rivals. A win would give the Bolts a 3-0 record within the division in addition to a two-game lead. A loss would knot the two teams at 3-3 while giving Denver the early tie-breaker. For the first time all year, the Chargers will don their popular powder blue jerseys in front of a nationally televised audience on Monday Night Football.
A Look Back At Last Week
The New Orleans Saints rattled off 17 straight points over the final 16 minutes to secure a 31-24 come from behind victory over the Chargers. Philip Rivers had a strong game passing, finishing with 22 completions for 354 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 95.7. Robert Meachem had a break out game, recording two touchdowns, while Ryan Mathews ran for 80 yards and a touchdown and caught a team-high six passes for 59 yards.
What to Watch For…
On Offense for the Chargers
Following his strongest game of the 2012 season, the Chargers will look to feed Ryan Mathews the ball early and often. Head coach Norv Turner said he still plans on using a running back by committee, but admits that Mathews will see the vast majority of touches. In the passing game, Philip Rivers will continue to spread the ball around to a wide variety of weapons. But watch for the quarterback to target Antonio Gates, hoping to connect for the first touchdown pass of the season with the tight end.
On Offense for the Broncos
Denver features a balanced attack that ranks ninth in the NFL in total offense. Peyton Manning is back to his usual ways, completing 66.0% of his passes (130 of 197) for 1,507 yards with 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He has a number of capable targets, led by Demaryius Thomas who leads the team with 513 yards receiving, 30 catches and a pair of touchdowns. Also factoring prominently in the passing game are wide receivers Eric Decker (28 catches) and Brandon Stokely (15), as well as tight end Jacob Tamme (21). Willis McGahee anchors the Broncos’ rushing attack with 83 carries for 376 yards and three scores.
On Defense for the Chargers
After allowing the Saints to complete big plays against them, the Chargers defense looks to get back to creating the “negative plays” they achieved the week prior against the Chiefs. One player capable of being a disruptive force on each snap is Shaun Phillips, who’s having an outstanding 2012 campaign. He already has more sacks through five games (4.5) than all of last season (3.5). Meanwhile, Atari Bigby leads the team with 34 tackles while Eric Weddle and Antoine Cason pace the club with two interceptions apiece.
On Defense for the Broncos
Linebacker Von Miller leads a stingy Broncos’ defense that is only yielding 22.8 points per game. Miller leads the Broncos with five sacks, while defensive end Elvis Dumervil is right behind him with three. Meanwhile, linebacker Wesley Woodyard and safety Rahim Moore are tied for the team lead with 37 tackles apiece. The defense also features the ageless future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey at cornerback.
The Chargers have won four of the last five, five of the last eight and nine of the last 12 against the Broncos. The Bolts have also won four of the last six played in San Diego. Nonetheless, Denver leads the all-time series, 55-48-1.
By the Numbers
For the year, the Chargers rank 23rd in total offense (334.8 yards per game), 19th in passing (231.4 ypg), 16th in rushing (103.4 ypg) and 13th in points (24.8). The Broncos rank ninth in total offense (390.0 ypg), fifth in passing (288.8 ypg), 17th in rushing (101.2 ypg) and ninth in points (27.0)
Defensively, the Bolts rank 11th in total defense (334.0 ypg), 20th in passing (260.0 ypg), fifth in rushing (74.0 ypg) and 11th in points allowed (20.4). Denver ranks 13th in total defense (335.2 ypg), 11th in passing (215.0 ypg), 21st in rushing (120.2 ypg) and 19th in points allowed (22.8).
Milestones on the Horizon
Shaun Phillips has 64.5 career sacks, fourth in team history. Phillips needs one more to tie Lee Williams (65.5) for third, and he needs 2.5 to tie Gary “Big Hands” Johnson (67) for second. Phillips leads the team this season with 4.5 sacks, 11 pressures and six quarterback hits.
Malcom Floyd (197) comes into Monday’s game vs. Denver three catches shy of 200 for his career. He also needs 427 to crack the team’s career Top 10 list.
Antonio Gates (7,926 career yards) needs 55 receiving yards to pass Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome (7,980) for the fourth-most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history. He also needs five touchdown catches to match Lance Alworth’s team record of 81.
Ryan Mathews (1,954 rushing yards) needs 281 to crack the team’s career Top 10 list.
Philip Rivers needs 1,403 passing yards to move past John Hadl for second in team history.
The Chargers need five regular-season victories to reach 400 all-time. The Chargers’ all-time regular-season record is 395-386-11.
A.J. Smith is the winningest general manager in franchise history with 94 wins. He needs six wins to see the team reach 100 wins under his watch. Additionally, the Chargers’ next division title will be Smith’s sixth as general manager, most in team history, and the Chargers’ next playoff win will be Smith’s fourth as general manager, also most in team history.
Norv Turner (114 career wins) is tied with former Chargers coach Don Coryell for 32nd all-time in career wins. Several others are within reach this season. Turner needs three wins to tie Dennis Green (117) for 31st, four to tie George Allen (118) for 30th and nine to tie another former Chargers coach, Sid Gillman (123), for 29th.
Eric Weddle (15) needs five interceptions to crack the team’s top 10 for career picks.
Antoine Cason (245 int. return yards) needs 64 to crack the team’s career Top 10 list.
Wide receiver Eddie Royal was a second-round pick of the Broncos in 2008 and he played in Denver from 2008-11.
Tight end Dante Rosario played for the Broncos in 2011.
Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano and linebackers coach Joe Barry are both Boulder, Colo. natives. They were teammates at Boulder’s Fairview High School where Pagano’s father, Sam, was the school’s head coach.
Broncos’ Head Coach John Fox served as the Chargers’ secondary coach from 1992-93. Fox also was a graduate assistant at San Diego State. He attended both Southwestern CC and San Diego State, and is originally from Chula Vista.
Tight ends coach Clancy Barone held the same position with the Chargers from 2007-08.
Wide receiver Andre Caldwell is the younger brother of former Chargers wide receiver Reche Caldwell.
ESPN (simulcast on KFMB, Channel 8 in San Diego) – Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Jon Gruden (analyst) and Lisa Salters (reporter)
Dial Global Radio (National) – Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Dan Fouts (analyst) and Mark Malone (reporter)
Rock 105.3 FM, XTRA Sports 1360 (San Diego) and AM 570 KLAC (Los Angeles & Orange County) – Josh Lewin (play-by-play), Hank Bauer (analyst) and Mike Costa (reporter)
Spanish Radio –XHFG 107.3 (San Diego) and KWKW 1330 AM (Los Angeles) – Jorge Villanueva (play-by-play) and Dante Lazcano (analyst) Read