What was supposed to be a tight AFC West game at Invesco Field at Mile High became a blowout for San Diego.
Identical 6-3 records coming in were the only thing that Denver and the Chargers shared.
Everything else was one-sided in favor of the visitors, who steam-rolled over and past the Broncos, 32-3, last Sunday afternoon.
The Broncos came out and won their first six games, but have dropped their last four. San Diego is on a five-game winning streak, and are atop the division.
The Chargers averaged an amazing 4.7 yards per carry, and were led by sleek tailback LaDainian Tomlinson and bruising fullback Mike Tolbert.
Tomlinson had a team-high 73 yards on 20 rushes, and Tolbert added 58 yards on seven carries.
Tomlinson’s one-yard score came in the third quarter, and gave San Diego a 20-3 lead, while Tolbert’s eight-yard jog made it a 29-point differential.
San Diego was 32nd and last in rushing, averaging less than 80 yards, but came away with 203 yards.
This happens infrequently now because Tomlinson, a former Most Valuable Player, has been injured and is getting older.
Backup quarterback Chris Simms started for the Broncos, but after three miserable series was pulled in favor of Kyle Orton, who sustained a high left ankle injury the week before against the Washington Redskins.
Simms hasn’t played since September 2006, after a serious spleen injury that required emergency surgery.
Orton played better; hitting 15 of 29 passes for 171 yards with one interception, but this is relative, since Simms was horrible, completing two of four for 10 yards, with one fumble.
This play led to quarterback Philip Rivers on a 69-yard, nine-play march culminating in a two-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Legedu Naanee that gave San Diego a 7-0 lead with 5:58 left in the first quarter.
Denver defeated San Diego by 11 points in their first meeting, but were hard-pressed to stop them this time.
The Broncos sacked Rivers five times, but his uniform was clean, as he connected on 17 of 22 throws for 145 yards.
Rivers hit seven different receivers, with Vincent Jackson hauling in four passes for 56 yards, tight end Antonio Gates grabbing three for 41 yards, and Malcom Floyd spearing four for 38 yards.
Reliable Nate Kaeding was perfect on four field goals for the Chargers. His first kick from 28 yards made it 10-0 with less than 11 minutes left before the half, and his 47-yard attempt in the second quarter gave San Diego a 13-0 edge.
The Broncos have enough weapons, especially wide receivers Brandon Marshall (26 yards on three receptions) and Eddie Royal (29 yards on four catches), along with rookie running back Knowshon Moreno, but accumulated only 271 yards.
Denver had three first-half turnovers, including a fumble by Moreno, who had 80 yards on 10 carries, at the goal line. In some angles, it looked as though Moreno scored, but the replay booth ruled that he didn’t.
Denver’s Matt Prater drilled a 23-yard field goal with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter to make it 13-3, but Tomlinson capped a 41-yard, six-play drive with his 132nd career rushing touchdown, and 147th all-time, which is third best in NFL history.
Kaeding added a 28-yard field goal and a 19-yard boot in the fourth quarter. This was San Diego’s day.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.