The Thursday night matchup between Denver and San Diego provided for stalwart defensive efforts in the first half, followed by heavy offensive attacks in the second. The end result was a 35-21 win for the Broncos, as they now have taken sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Both teams were able to lock things down defensively throughout most of the first half. Neither team was able to get on the board during the first quarter, but Denver opened the second quarter with a 2-yard pass from Peyton Manning to Emmanuel Sanders, This was just the first for Sanders, as he nabbed his second with just 32 seconds to go in the half. Just prior to Sanders’ second touchdown grab of the game, the Chargers were able to get on the board with a 2-yard pass from Phillip Rivers to Keenan Allen.
Sanders wasn’t done scoring just quite yet, as he grabbed another touchdown pass from Manning and gave the Broncos a 21-7 lead less than five minutes into the half. This drive was one of the more effective on the evening for Manning’s offense, as the Broncos stormed down the field in just under three minutes, capping a 6-play, 51-yard drive with the 3-yard score to Sanders.
The Broncos finally had things rolling, as they then stopped the Chargers on their next drive. Once the ball was back in Manning’s hands, he led Denver on another drive that took just 1:41 off the clock as Juwan Thompson capped a 5-play, 61-yard drive with a 2-yard run.
The Chargers didn’t give up once the Broncos took the 21-point lead. Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates connected multiple times on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 4-yard reception, and the game was a closer 28-18 going into the final quarter.
Things were pretty much over with when Juwan Thompson scored again and put the Broncos up 35-14. Rivers and Gates would connect again to take it to 35-21, but then Rivers threw a key interception the next time he had the ball and the Broncos were able to manage the rest of the time on the clock.
Despite the rather lopsided score, the game was quite evenly matched on both sides. The Broncos ran just seven more total plays (65-58) and only possessed the ball for a little over a minute more than the Chargers (30:46-29:14). The most lopsided stat was in the running department, where the Broncos had 139 yards to San Diego’s 61.
The Chargers started the season with a loss, but quickly heat up and won 4 games in a row. However, they have a relatively generous schedule with their next three games being against Miami, Oakland, and St. Louis. Unfortunately, they’ll then have a much tougher stretch as they’ll play Baltimore, New England, Denver, and San Francisco from Weeks 13 and 16. The Chargers currently sit at 14/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, so be sure to check back with sportspicks.com in the coming weeks to see how they do once their schedule gets a bit tougher.
As for the Broncos, they remain as the top team in the league with 3/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. They will also see a lot of the same opponents as the Chargers in the coming weeks. The next three games will all be on the road for Denver, starting in New England next weekend, followed by games in Oakland and St. Louis.
The Broncos and Chargers will meet one more time this season, and it will be on December 14th in San Diego. We’ll keep our eyes out to see how important that game is to the AFC West, as well as the playoff picture at that late in the season.