Broncos can't get much lower

As if their historic loss to the San Diego Chargers weren't enough, the Denver Broncos received news that two key players are finished for the year.

Going into their bye week, the Denver Broncos couldn't be much lower.

Their 41-3 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday was the fourth worst home loss in team history, the worst in 41 years. The Broncos, who won each of their first two games on the final play of the game, have now lost three in a row.

The Broncos fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and it kept getting worse after that.

"I don't know if I've ever been more embarrassed," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "I don't think our players have ever been more embarrassed, to put on that type of show. It starts with me. I did a poor job getting them ready."

The 38-point loss was the worst of the Shanahan era, which started in 1995. The Broncos had a chance to open up a two-game lead on the Chargers in the AFC West, but made too many mistakes.

The special teams were a letdown again. Last week the Broncos cut Domenik Hixon, who had been returning punts and kickoffs, and re-signed Brian Clark. Clark took over on kickoff returns, and fumbled one that was returned for a touchdown. That came after San Diego took a 7-0 lead, and the 14-0 gap took the energy out of the Broncos' fans early in the game.

Later in the first quarter Brandon Marshall fumbled at San Diego's 9-yard line, which was another big blow. By the end, most of the fans had left and the Broncos were frustrated at such a bad loss.

"We're not winning football games, and that's what this game is about and that's what this town and that's what this organization expects," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "It's top to bottom, practice squad people, everybody. Everybody needs to take a look in the mirror and we need to get this figured out."

Denver's run defense continued to be a problem. The Broncos have allowed more than 200 yards rushing in three of their last four games. Most of the damage wasn't done by LaDainian Tomlinson, but backup Michael Turner. Turner had a 49-yard run with 13 seconds to go in the first half, which was a disappointing letdown for the Broncos, and a 74-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos held Tomlinson to 67 yards on 21 carries, but that didn't make them feel any better.

"There's nothing easier for an offense to do, there's nothing more humiliating for a defense than for someone to turn and hand the ball off," safety John Lynch said. "We've got to find an answer for that."

The Broncos' offense didn't do much better. They had to settle for a field goal in their first trip inside the red zone after running back Selvin Young dropped a pass. Denver rushed for less than 100 yards and quarterback Jay Cutler, despite a decent game, never led the team to a touchdown.

The Broncos have a week off to regroup, but it won't get much easier. Denver has a tough upcoming schedule, with Pittsburgh and Green Bay after the bye.

PLAYER NOTES

--C Tom Nalen played the whole game with a torn bicep and is finished for the year.

--TE Nate Jackson is also finished. He suffered a torn groin injury and did not return to action.

--RB Travis Henry played against San Diego. Henry has gone to court to block the NFL from using the results of a drug test to suspend him.

Henry served a four-game suspension for violating the drug policy in 2005, and another positive test will mean a year suspension. Henry will continue to play as long as his case is battled in the courts and appealed to the NFL.

--WR Javon Walker missed Sunday's game against San Diego. Walker, who has inflammation and fluid in his knee, said he will be back after the bye week. He said if the Broncos hadn't had a bye week he might have tried to play but knew the extra week would help.

--WR Glenn Martinez returned punts for the Broncos and was a bigger part of the offense as the third receiver. Martinez became involved as an offensive player because of Javon Walker's injury and the struggles of Domenik Hixon, which led to Hixon's release. Martinez also had 70 yards on six catches.

--DT Amon Gordon was back in the Broncos' starting lineup. Against Indianapolis, Gordon was deactivated and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said it was because Gordon hadn't played or practiced as well as replacements Marcus Thomas and Antwon Burton.

--DE Simeon Rice was inactive against San Diego. Rice was signed to make an impact as a pass rusher, but didn't have a sack in Denver's first four games.



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