Chargers stun Broncos
Peyton Manning wanted more rest. He got plenty on 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 unexpected jolt.
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.
“The longer you keep the ball and the less he has it, the better off you are going to be,” said Chargers coach Mike McCoy, Manning’s former offensive coordinator.
Rivers finished 12 for 20 for 166 yards in improving to 28- 6 in December. Ryan Matthews matched his season high with 127 yards on 29 carries.
After Denver’s long, dry spell on offense, 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 time.
They pulled within seven and Manning got the ball on the Denver three 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 will 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.
“They obviously did a better job getting ready on a short week than we did,” Broncos coach John Fox said.
Denver’s previous low in scoring was 27 points against the Chiefs.