The San Diego Chargers moved closer to the number three seed in the AFC Monday night, and a playoff meeting in two weeks with either the Tennessee Titans or the Cleveland Browns. They did it with a rather easy looking 23-3 victory over the overmatched and clearly frustrated Denver Broncos, who spent more of the night jawing with the Chargers then they did trying to get things done on the field. It started early with John Lynch throwing LaDainian Tomlinson’s helmet after a short run, and went on all night, with players on each side exercising their mouths more than their muscle.
With the victory, the Chargers move within one game of clinching that #3 seed. They will do so if they, and they should, take care of business Sunday in Oakland when they take on the lowly Raiders. A loss and a Steelers win over the Ravens Sunday in Baltimore, and the Chargers would be matched up at home with the dangerous Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that have already lost to this season.
Monday’s storyline was all about taking care of business, and the Chargers did just that. Tomlinson overtook the injured Willie Parker for the NFL rushing lead with 107 yards and a score, and the defense harassed Broncos QB Jay Cutler all night, sacking him four times and holding the Broncos back and forth offense to just 225 yards, 92 rushing and 133 passing. San Diego did not have much of a problem moving, as they amassed 334 yards, 147 of which came on the ground.
Cutler was held to 14-for-32 passing for 155 yards with no scores and two picks. He was also the teams leading rusher, as he ran for 42 yards on three carries, 21 of which came on one play. The Chargers jumped out with a Nate Kaeding 40-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 7:30 left in the first quarter. Tomlinson made it 10-0 with a 17-yard run later in the quarter, and then two more Kaeding field goals made it 16-0 at the half.
Phillip Rivers put the Chargers up 23-0 on a pass to Chris Chambers that covered 14 yards that finished the Broncos for all intensive purposes in fast fashion with 7:56 left in the third quarter. Denver’s only points came on a short Jason Elam field goal that made it 23-3 with 2:47 left in the third. The two teams traded plenty of mouthing off, but no points in the final stanza.
For the Broncos, their season has been long gone, with an offense that has been unable to come through in the clutch, and a defense that has gotten worse as the season mas moved along. They fall to 6-9, and are looking at their worst season since 1999, when they went 6-10 the season after Hall of Fame QB John Elway retired.