By Dave Thomas
It may be a bit too much to say Monday’s game between the Denver Broncos and the Chargers will make or break San Diego’s season, but a win for the home team would surely give them a leg up in the AFC West race after six weeks of play.
With a win, San Diego (3-2) would move two games in front of Denver (2-3) in the division race, with essentially a three-game lead having had won the head-to-head encounter before they meet again Nov. 18 in the Mile High City. With wins over Oakland and Kansas City earlier this season, the Bolts stand at 2-0 within the division.
For the Chargers, the focus in practice this week has been just that, focus on the Broncos and put the Saints nightmare behind them.
It was just this past Sunday evening when the Chargers were potentially going up 31-14 on the road at New Orleans, then it all collapsed.
A roughing the passer penalty negated a return for touchdown of a Drew Brees interception, as the Saints continued the drive and pulled to within 24-21. New Orleans would go on to score the game’s last 10 points to capture its first victory of the season.
“I can’t tell you how tough it is to lose a game like this,” Rivers told The Associated Press, referencing the Saints loss. “We were right there. We were up by 10 points and just didn’t get it done. We have a great team, a championship-caliber team, but we have to win close games like this.”
Despite a tough loss, Rivers and Co. turned their attention this week to zeroing in on their division rivals, hoping San Diego’s recent success against Denver will come into play.
The Bolts have captured four of the last five contests in the series, including four of the last six games played in Southern California. Despite the recent success, Denver still holds a 55-48-1 lead in the all-time series.
Chargers Need Diversified Offensive Attack To Win
Among the keys to San Diego continuing its recent run against Denver will be the ability to move the ball on the ground.
Ryan Mathews had a strong game in the loss to the Saints last weekend, totaling nearly 140 yards of combined offense (running, receiving), along with a touchdown. Most importantly, Mathews has not coughed the ball up in the last two games, something that helped lead to the Chargers’ demise in a 27-3 home loss to Atlanta on Sept. 23. If Mathews, Jackie Battle and/or Ronnie Brown can chew up some yardage Monday night, it will alleviate some of the pressure on Rivers to make the big play.
While receiver Malcom Floyd has had a pair of games this season of more than 100 receiving yards, and tight end Antonio Gates appears to be relatively healthy, San Diego still needs a solid ground game in order to win games, especially close ones.
Lastly, San Diego’s secondary (team ranked 20th in the NFL against the pass, giving up an average of 260 yards a game) should welcome the reported return of cornerback Shareece Wright (foot injury suffered in the Oakland win). With Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason getting burned a couple of times in the loss to the Saints, expect Manning to test Wright and the rest of San Diego’s secondary early and often. Denver enters the contest with the fifth-best passing attack by the numbers in the league, averaging 287.2 yards per game.
If you like heated division rivalries, then pull up chair and watch some football this Monday night.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.