By Dave Thomas

The Los Angeles Chargers’ 21-0 victory Sunday afternoon over the rival Denver Broncos sent several messages.

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First, the Chargers are back in the AFC West playoff race. After dropping their first four games of the season, the Bolts have won three straight to get to 3-4.

Second, it was painfully obvious for Denver (3-3) fans that starting quarterback Trevor Siemian is more than likely not the answer under center. After scoring a mere 10 points against the lowly New York Giants at home last Sunday night, the Broncos were shutout for the first time since 1992 in their setback against the Chargers. Even with several offensive linemen and top wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders missing the Chargers game with injuries, Denver shot itself in the foot time and time again.

So, at the nearly halfway point of the regular season, the Chargers and Broncos appear to be going in different directions.

Although it is too early for euphoria in the Los Angeles locker room or doom and gloom in Denver, trends are emerging.

With that being the case, will the Chargers take this trend of winning and carry it all the way to New England for next Sunday’s showdown with the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots?

Offense: B – 

Even though Los Angeles has been struggling at times with executing the offensive game plan to the letter, the Chargers have been winning as of late. In this third straight victory, the Bolts were able to get enough offense through the air to negate another dismal running attack performance. Quarterback Philip Rivers (15-of-26 for 183 yards, 2 TD’s) looked angered at times, most notably because the bench was slow in getting the plays into the huddle. That said, tight end Hunter Henry had four catches for 73 yards, while Travis Benjamin and Austin Ekeler each caught touchdown passes.

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As for the ground game, Ekeler and starting back Melvin Gordon were both able to only rush for a mere 38 yards on 25 carries between the two of them. While some of that can be attributed to Denver’s league-leading defense, the message is plain and simple that Los Angeles does not have a steady rushing attack to rely on.

Defense: A- 

With Denver’s Siemian showing just how bad he can be at times (a pair of fumbles, one lost), it was no wonder the Broncos were held scoreless for the first time in 25 years. The Los Angeles pass rush did a great job of creating chaos in the Denver backfield on a number of occasions. Leading the way, Joey Bosa and Chris McCain had a pair of sacks. Jahleel Addae recorded nine total tackles, with Hayes Pullard III tallying eight solo stops. If the Chargers defense can play like this more times than not, a playoff spot is not out of the question by the time late December rolls around.

Special Teams: B-

It was a busy day for punter Drew Kaser, who finished his afternoon with eight punts for an average of 51.6 yards per punt. Placekicker Nick Novak hit on three-of-three extra point attempts. Neither team attempted a field goal.

Coaching: B-

Although head coach Anthony Lynn is still learning on the job, he has kept this team together through a horrid start to the season. In doing so, the Chargers are right back in the AFC West playoff race. The Bolts still have dates with Oakland (home) and Kansas City (road) to go. Los Angeles split the season series with Denver. If there was one glaring series of errors in Sunday’s game, it was the aforementioned delay in getting plays in for Rivers to run. Both delay of games and timeouts were the results. Through seven games in the regular season, such problems with plays calls should not be happening on a rather regular basis.

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Los Angeles will hit the road for a trip across the country to meet New England next Sunday. The Patriots, who defeated the Falcons Sunday evening (Oct. 22) in a rematch of last year’s thrilling Super Bowl, lead the all-time series with the Chargers by a 23-15-2 count. New England won the last meeting between the two teams back in 2014 by a 23-14 score.