The players hadn't brushed the loss aside a day later.
"Everybody is pretty down still," running back Tatum Bell said. "We felt like we should have had that game. We jumped up on them early, we just couldn't finish them."
Denver now has to go to San Diego, with the winner grabbing the AFC West title. The loser is out of the playoffs.
The Broncos would be the second team since divisional play started in the NFL in 1967 to have a three-game lead in the division and not go to the playoffs. The 2003 Vikings didn't make the playoffs after leading Green Bay by three games, but that was only seven games into the season. Denver led San Diego by three games with three to play.
For the Broncos to beat the Chargers, they'll have to bounce back mentally from a tough loss.
"We have to put Sunday behind us and move on and get ready for San Diego because that's all we've got," receiver Brandon Stokley said. "That's all we can do. We can't let this affect us anymore."
--QB Jay Cutler will throw a lot against San Diego's defense, which ranks 31st against the pass. The Broncos don't have much choice given their shocking run of injuries at tailback. Cutler had 350 yards and four touchdowns in the first meeting this season against the Chargers.
--RB Tatum Bell is probably the Broncos' best bet at tailback this week. He has some experience, and the coaches know what they are getting from him, which isn't the case with rookie Cory Boyd. If Bell can run the ball effectively, he would keep the Chargers defense honest.
--RB Cory Boyd has talent, but he didn't take advantage of an opportunity a couple of weeks ago when he was promoted from the practice squad. He didn't impress in practice and was released and signed back to the practice squad. Now he is back on the active roster, and with a good week of practice, he could have a decent role against the Chargers.
--WR Brandon Marshall caught 18 passes against San Diego in the first meeting. He will need to have a big game for the Broncos to win and advance to the playoffs. He needs two catches to reach 100 for the second consecutive season.
--WR Eddie Royal had only five catches for 37 yards against the Chargers earlier this year, but he caught a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion in the final minute to win the game. With so much attention focused on Brandon Marshall, Royal is always a decent bet to have a good game.
--WR Brandon Stokley has been playing through injuries for two weeks. Stokley is likely to play again and should see lots of action considering the amount of times the Broncos probably will throw the ball.
--TE Tony Scheffler is a rare big-play threat at tight end. He had 56 yards on only two catches against Buffalo. The Chargers don't defend the tight end well, so Scheffler and Daniel Graham could each get plenty of passes thrown their way this week.
--K Matt Prater didn't have a good day kicking off against Buffalo in cold weather, and Denver's confidence in him might be slipping. The Broncos need him to have a good game kicking off against the Chargers to avoid giving up a big play.
--CB Champ Bailey has covered tight ends before, so he could get some plays against San Diego's Antonio Gates. In a must-win game, the Broncos will push Bailey as far as he can go. He came back to the lineup last week after missing seven games with a groin injury.
--LB D.J. Williams looked better against Buffalo. He had four tackles and a quarterback hit. He'll be a huge part of Denver's defensive effort this week, trying to contain San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles.
--CB Karl Paymah will play the nickel cornerback role if Josh Bell's injured ankle doesn't respond to treatment this week. If Malcom Floyd doesn't play because of a collapsed lung, the Chargers aren't as dangerous in three-receiver sets.
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