A team of destiny, the San Diego Chargers, according to everything that’s happened over the last few years. Despite being in the very tough AFC West, they’re still in the playoff race, getting a huge boost for the road that’s left as they beat the Denver Brocnos 27-20 which doesn’t just keep them alive in the hunt for a postseason spot, but also making it a bit more interesting for teams trying to finish with home field advantage.
Philip Rivers didn’t have a big day, but unlike Peyton Manning, he didn’t make any mistakes. The Chargers made the most of Wes Welker not playing and made life very difficult for Manning. The Broncos couldn’t get a rhythm going for them, as their offense spent only 21 minutes on the field compared with the 39 by the Chargers.
Manning had a chance to tie the game. With 5:50 left, Manning got the ball on the Denver 3, with the Broncos down by 7. He moved the Broncos forward, with the help of a penalty, but it stopped after 30 yards. The Chargers pass rush sacked Manning only once during the game and struggled to get to him throughout, managed to force him into a bad throw, and Manning was intercepted by Thomas Keiser on the 33.
The second quarter was where the Chargers did most of the job they needed to pull off the shocking road win, improving to 7-7 this season. Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Keenan Allen, and Ryan Mathews scored the only points of the third quarter with a touchdown. The Chargers focused on running the ball from the beginning, with Mathews becoming the first player to rush for over 100 yards this season against Denver. He finished with 127 yards on 29 carries, his fifth 100-yard performance since October 14, reaching 1000 rushing yards for the second time in three years, and now needing 79 yards to set a new career high.
The longer you keep the ball and the less he has it, the better off you’re going to be, that’s what the Chargers head coach said after the game. We didn’t play well, didn’t stay on the field, didn’t have the ball much, and, when we did, we didn’t do much with it, said Peyton Manning with a bit of counter wisdom. Manning did throw a couple of touchdown passes, both to Andre Caldwell, but he was only 27-of-41, struggling to get the ball to Eric Decker and finding it difficult without his default passing option.
Rivers was a lot quieter, throwing only 20 passes, completing 12 of them, two for touchdowns. He has now reached 4000 passing yards for the fifth time in six seasons, but this year has to be the finest of his career, including a 106.9 passer rating and throwing only 9 interceptions. The Chargers might not make the playoffs when the dust settles, but there’s no doubt they have their franchise quarterback playing at the level they’ve always needed from him.
The Chargers finish the season with two home games – Oakland, which is a must win, and the Chiefs, which they probably can’t afford to lose as well. They might need some other results to go their way, but a 9-7 record in the AFC should be enough to make the playoffs. Despite being slightly inconsistent, the work done this season in raising this franchise up from the wreckage Norv Turner left makes them deserve to be in the playoffs.