By Dave Thomas
To say one game will determine the rest of the season is not going too far when describing San Diego’s trip to Denver this Sunday.
With a win, the Chargers remain in the hunt for the AFC West title. Drop their fifth game in their last six contests, and the Bolts might as well start thinking about the 2013 campaign.
When San Diego (4-5) and Denver (6-3) collide Sunday afternoon in the Mile High City, the Chargers will hope to erase the all too painful memory of a Monday night back in October, a night that will go down in infamy as one of the team’s worst.
Leading 24-0 at one point, the Chargers watched the Broncos and Peyton Manning come storming back, leaving San Diego with a 35-24 win, not to mention a little piece of the Chargers’ hearts. The Denver rally tied for the fourth-biggest regular-season comeback in NFL history.
Since that debacle last month, the Chargers have proceeded to lose two of their last three contests, including another disappointing setback last Sunday in Tampa Bay to the Buccaneers.
So, how can a team that has been sputtering for a good month now go into Colorado and beat one of the hotter teams in the NFL? As most Charger fans will likely tell you, it won’t be easy by any means.
Manning Continues To Age Well
Not only do the Chargers confront a hot team this Sunday, but future Hall-of-Famer Manning currently sits with the NFL’s top passer rating at 108.0, while Denver’s defense has recorded 12 sacks in its last two games (Cincinnati, Carolina). Just as stated, it certainly won’t be easy.
To make matters a little more challenging for the Bolts, the team noted on Wednesday that top running back Ryan Mathews was nursing a neck injury, an injury the result of a collision he had in Sunday’s game at Tampa. As a result, Mathews, who missed Wednesday’s practice, is listed as questionable for the Denver game.
While the potential loss of Mathews may seem a bad thing to many Charger fans, it may actually be a blessing in disguise if it means more touches for backup Jackie Battle. Acquired in the offseason from Kansas City, it continues to confound a number of people who cover the Chargers, not to mention a number of folks who root for this franchise, as to why Battle has not seen more action this year.
Meantime, the psyche of quarterback Philip Rivers will again be tested on Sunday.
Rivers, who threw three TD passes in last weekend’s loss to the Buccaneers, also coughed up one of the worst INT’s of his career, a pass that led to a return for a touchdown and a loss of momentum for the Chargers. On the season, Rivers has 15 TD passes against 12 interceptions, this following last season where he set a career-high with 20 INT’s. In the loss to the Broncos last month, Rivers threw four interceptions and fumbled twice.
It would be safe to say that this Sunday will likely make or break San Diego’s season.
For even the most diehard of San Diego fans, Sunday will either be a pleasant surprise or something that ends up being too painful to watch.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.