Doubleheader on CBS2:
Raiders @ Giants at 10AM
Broncos @ Chargers at 1:25PM
SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego coach Mike McCoy will get to see several familiar faces when Denver visits the Chargers on Sunday.
The former Broncos offensive coordinator, however, won’t see his old boss.
With John Fox recovering from heart surgery, Denver looks to keep rolling with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio at the helm against a Chargers team trying to regroup from a discouraging loss.
Fox was hospitalized last Saturday after feeling light-headed while playing golf during the Broncos’ bye week. Two days later, he had his aortic valve replaced, an open-chest procedure which will likely cause him to miss several weeks.
“We all wish him a speedy recovery,” Del Rio said. “The best way that we could honor him is to go out and play great football.”
The Broncos (7-1) played plenty of great football over the first half of the season.
Denver is averaging an NFL-best 42.9 points – 12.9 better than No. 2 Chicago – and is on pace to shatter the NFL record of 589 points (2007 Patriots). Not surprisingly, Peyton Manning is also putting up eye-popping numbers. His 2,919 yards and 29 touchdown passes are on pace to break the current records of 5,476 yards (Drew Brees, 2011) and 50 TDs (Tom Brady, 2007).
Wes Welker leads Denver with 50 catches and nine touchdowns, Demaryius Thomas has a team-best 685 receiving yards followed by Eric Decker with 669, and tight end Julius Thomas has eight TD receptions.
“I’m not going to say it’s as easy as it looks,” Demaryius Thomas said. “The main part is, everyone needs to be on the same page. You’ve got to have everyone on the field knowing what they’re doing all the time.”
Having a veteran like Manning running the offense should certainly help the Broncos with Fox recovering, and the players aren’t expecting anything to change with Del Rio in charge.
“Nothing changes,” wide receiver Andre Caldwell said. “It’s just a different co-pilot. It’s just a different guy saying the same words.”
Del Rio is well-versed with the responsibilities of a head coach after spending nearly nine seasons in that role in Jacksonville before joining Fox’s staff last year.
“This is coach Fox’s team,” Del Rio said. “I’m merely the person that’s able to keep it running right now while he’s healing.”
Keeping the team running efficiently could be difficult, as Del Rio inherits a team opening a difficult stretch. The Broncos, who haven’t played since a 45-21 win over Washington on Oct. 27, have two matchups with undefeated Kansas City around a road game against AFC East-leading New England in the coming three weeks.
Denver first turns its attention to a San Diego team eager to get back on the field after last Sunday’s 30-24 overtime loss at Washington.
The Chargers (4-4) had a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 21 seconds to go in regulation, but after an unsuccessful run and two incomplete passes, they had to settle for a game-tying field goal. They never got the ball again as the Redskins scored a touchdown on the first possession in overtime.
“Every loss is hard to get over. It feels like you die,” center Nick Hardwick told the Chargers’ official website. “But we have to get over it quickly. We need to get a good week of work in and get ready to play Denver and play our best game of football to date.”
McCoy, in his first season running the Chargers after four years in Denver, faced plenty of scrutiny for the questionable play calls by offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt in the waning moments against Washington.
“I’m not questioning what we did. We’re not questioning that,” McCoy said. “This is a team game. It’s the San Diego Chargers’ organization. And I’m not questioning any of the calls. We did what we thought was best to win the football game and we’re moving on.”
Aside from failing to get in the end zone from the 1-yard line, there were many reasons why San Diego lost. The Chargers allowed the Redskins to convert 12 of 17 third-down attempts and rack up 500 yards of offense, bad signs with Manning coming to town.
The Broncos won both meetings with the Chargers last season, and Manning had three touchdowns passes in each. In Denver’s last trip to San Diego, Manning rallied the Broncos from a 24-0 halftime deficit for a 35-24 victory.
McCoy’s coaching stock rose after he found ways to win with Tim Tebow in 2011 and then reworked the offense for Manning last season.
He has now helped revive Philip Rivers’ career.
Rivers is completing an NFL-best 72.2 percent of his passes, just ahead of Manning’s mark of 71.2, and his 106.5 passer rating is third-best in the league.
He’ll be going up against a defense that is allowing an average of 27.3 points but is tied for the league lead with 13 interceptions. Rivers threw six picks in the two games against Denver in 2012.
It might help Rivers if San Diego’s offense shows better balance. He threw 46 passes last week while the Chargers had a season-low 16 rushing attempts for 69 yards despite the game being close throughout. Ryan Mathews finished with 34 yards on seven carries after consecutive 100-yard games – both victories – during which he totaled 43 of San Diego’s 77 rushes.