Broncos can't finish again

The San Diego Chargers assumed a two game lead over the Denver Broncos in the AFC West after their 20-17 win on Sunday. Once again, the Broncos had a chance to win the game at the end, but failed to make the necessary play(s). Denver falls to 7-4 on the season.

Slipping away - Denver Post - Bill Williamson
Monday, December 06, 2004 - Last week, in a gut-wrenching home loss to Oakland that put the Broncos in this awful mess, the Raiders needed about 10 plays to go their way. They got all 10. Sunday, the Broncos were looking for just one play. All they needed on a wet, miserable day in San Diego was one lousy play - any time during a wild second half - to take control of the AFC West Division. One play. It never came. And now, it appears, neither will Denver's first AFC West crown in six years. Decade might be enough - Denver Post - Mark Kiszla
Monday, December 06, 2004 - Nobody in America knows more football than Mike Shanahan. But there comes a time when all the X's and O's begin to look the same, and a coach's message is reduced to white noise. That time is now for Shanahan and the Broncos. The NFL's most beautiful mind has run out of fresh ideas. After a 20-17 loss to San Diego, there was nothing new for Shanahan to say about this game, his team or where it all went wrong. "When it was on the line, we couldn't get it done," said Shanahan, uttering an early epitaph for a season of false hope.

Bell gets unexpected call, scores first NFL touchdown - Denver Post
Monday, December 06, 2004 - There was not a lot of extra practice time, nor a pep talk from his coaches to let Broncos rookie running back Tatum Bell know he'd be such a big part of Denver's game plan Sunday. "I had no clue," the second-round draft choice from Oklahoma State said. "I just wanted to be ready when they called my name. I wanted to make the most of my chance." Bell saw the most extensive playing time of his rookie season, carrying the ball seven times for 31 yards, a 4.4-yard average. His 16-yard run in the second quarter produced the first touchdown of his NFL career.

Singing that old "Heartbreaker" tune - Denver Post - Jim Armstrong
Monday, December 06, 2004 - The ball was in Reggie Hayward's hands. Then, in a flash of fate befitting a cold and frustrating day, it was gone. And for all we know, the Broncos' season went with it. So how was it that San Diego quarterback Drew Brees came away with the ball after John Lynch had knocked him into Tuesday? According to Hayward, Lynch hit him too hard. Typical. Even when the Broncos do something right, it turns out wrong. "It actually hit me in the arm," Hayward said. "John hit him so hard, the ball popped out too fast, and I couldn't corral it. I tried to bat it down and jump on it, but it hit my arm and bounced away."

Rough outings for QBs - Denver Post - Patrick Saunders
Monday, December 06, 2004 - Sunday's AFC West showdown at Qualcomm Stadium showcased two types of quarterback. The Broncos featured Jake Plummer, the rambling, gambling gunslinger who is most dangerous outside the pocket. The Chargers countered with Drew Brees, the born-again quarterback whose precision pocket passing and cool demeanor have led the Chargers to the top of the AFC West. When the rare Southern California downpour finally let up, one thing was clear: The Chargers squeaked out a 20-17 victory to take control of the division.

Hitting the skids: breaks go faulty - Rocky Mountain News - Jeff Legwold
December 6, 2004 - No, the Denver Broncos didn't get the bounces. No, they didn't make the plays, they didn't avoid turnovers, they just didn't rebound from one tough loss against the Oakland Raiders before adding another to their 2004 résumé Sunday. And most of all, if they do not get their act together in, say, six days, they won't make the playoffs either. "Shoulda, woulda, coulda, you know . . . we definitely had our chances, but we let it get away," Broncos safety Kenoy Kennedy said. "But we've still got some fight in us. Everybody's going to count us out, we know that. But we don't, not yet."

Krieger: Late-game flub epitomizes Broncos' steady fade - Rocky Mountain News - Dave Krieger
December 6, 2004 - Miracles happen in the NFL - weekly, as a matter of fact - so it's always possible the Broncos will overcome another late-season fade. But if they don't, another lost season will be remembered for a single play, a single mistake that seemed to symbolize all their mistakes, a mistake that seemed to symbolize who they are. Another late-season fade built on a single late-season fade. First-and-goal on the San Diego 7-yard line. Three minutes, 45 seconds to play. Down 20-17 after coming back from 20-7. A lifeblood victory within their grasp, the kind that can define a team.

Chargers pick off victory - Daily Camera - Ryan Thorburn
December 6, 2004 - It is the drive that defines the Jake Plummer era. The Broncos were trailing by a field goal on the road late in the fourth quarter. The crowd, by Chargers standards, was large and loud. The conditions and the game were sloppy. But despite all of the above, Plummer calmly drove Denver from its own 20-yard line to the San Diego 7, getting the offense in position to win a game both sides admitted was the unofficial AFC West championship game. Then, with a flick of the wrist, the brilliant comeback became another bitter late-season defeat for the Broncos.

Chargers envision beating Broncos, then do it - San Diego Union-Tribune - Jim Trott
December 6, 2004 - Before taking the field for their AFC West showdown with the Denver Broncos yesterday, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer gathered his players and told them to close their eyes for 10 seconds and envision what their locker room would be like after the victory. Presumptuous? Perhaps. Effective? Absolutely. "It's not really corny depending on how you look at it, because you have to visualize something before you do it," linebacker Steve Foley said. "If you want something, you go to sleep, you dream it, then you go out and achieve it. That's what we did."

Lynch a loser this time - North County Times - Mike Sullivan
December 6, 2004 - John Lynch's latest homecoming didn't go nearly as well as his last football visit. The Torrey Pines High graduate won a Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he played at Qualcomm Stadium nearly two years ago. He also was part of the winning team during a regular-season game in 1996. This time, in a rare charged atmosphere for a Chargers' home game, Lynch was part of the losing squad for the first time in his three NFL appearances at Qualcomm. Lynch's performance in the Denver Broncos' 20-17 loss to the Chargers was definitely eventful. He forced two fumbles, recorded a sack, leveled Chargers running back Jesse Chatman with a fierce hit and was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

Picked Off - - Andrew Mason
Sunday, December 5, 2004 - For three quarters, the Broncos fought a tide of Chargers momentum so high that it could have flooded Qualcomm Stadium to the upper deck. But with four minutes remaining, it finally seemed as if the tide was at its ebb. Denver had first-and-goal from the 7-yard-line. Its offense was percolating, having moved the ball into scoring position for a third consecutive possssion. A deep pass moved the Broncos into scoring range, and Reuben Droughns had just kept the drive alive with a second-effort, 4-yard run on third-and-3 that energized the players on the sidelines and the thousands of Broncos fans dotting the stands. With a chance to grab their first lead or at worst tie, the Broncos called for a run-pass option. The result of the play was a worst-case scenario.

Dead-Bolt Defense - - Andrew Mason
Sunday, December 5, 2004 - Throughout the week, a novel's worth of words were written about how the San Diego Chargers' offense presented an ominous challenge to the Broncos' defense. In the four weeks leading up to Sunday, the Chargers averaged 35.5 points and 437.5 yards per game. They were bowling through NFL defenses as if they were comprised not of 11 players, but of 11 pins. It was a challenge accepted. It was a challenge met, as for the second time this season, Denver's defense strangled the San Diego offense as no one else in the NFL has this season.

Broncos-Chargers Notebook: A Return for Naught - - Andrew Mason
Sunday, December 5, 2004 - Instant replay ruled that Kenoy Kennedy's 95-yard interception return in the third quarter did not stand, that the errant football hit the grass and not Kelly Herndon's hand before bouncing into Kennedy's grasp. "I thought I had it. I thought he knocked it up," Kennedy said. "They went back and looked at the replay, so I guess the eye in the sky don't lie." Herndon thought it did. After the game, he claimed the ball touched nothing but him, and that the play should not have been overturned. "I had my hand on the ground and my hand was camouflaged with the ground," he said. "When the ball hits it, I'm trying to flip it up to myself or get an opportunity for Kenoy to get it, which he did.

San Diego 20, Denver 17 - - Bernie Wilson, AP
December 5, 2004 - The San Diego Chargers' long nightmare is coming to an end. The Chargers -- yes, the Chargers -- took firm control of the AFC West by hanging on to beat the Denver Broncos 20-17 in a wild one on Sunday. LaDainian Tomlinson ran for two touchdowns and San Diego's defense saved the day by intercepting Jake Plummer four times, including in the end zone in the closing minutes. On a rainy, cold and windy afternoon, the Chargers proved that water and electricity do mix, although it took them until the final play to do so. Playing their biggest game in 10 years, the Chargers (9-3) clinched their first winning season since 1995 and took a two-game lead in the division over Denver (7-5).

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers -
Sunday, December 05, 2004 - Prior to kickoff of this key AFC West contest, Mike Shanahan deemed the following eight Broncos inactive: Chris Young, Cecil Sapp, Jeff Shoate, Jashon Sykes, Cornell Green, Darius Holland, Trevor Pryce and Luther Elliss. The Broncos won the coin toss and received the game's opening kickoff. The game began in cold and rainy conditions, but the rain tapered off as the half progressed.

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