Chargers take broom to the top

Two games up and four to play. The San Diego Chargers are alone atop the AFC West at 9-3 and tightened the noose around the neck of the Broncos who are 7-5.

"A divisional opponent; we always have tough, physical games versus them," said quarterback Drew Brees.

He wasn't kidding. Each week has been a nail-biter. As many fingernails that have been chewed off, it is a wonder the manicurist shop doesn't have a line out the door.

Players pointed to the past three games as the true gauge of their success. At the time, the Chargers were 6-3 and had three straight games against divisional opponents. A 2-1 record against them would have been considered a success and going 3-0 a promise of destiny?

The games proved to be as tough as advertised with the Chargers squeaking out a victory in each.

"It was tough," Foley said of the three game stretch. "For us to come together and play the way we did, it speaks a lot of this team."

The combined margin of victory in the three games was just 12 points or four per game. Two of those were wins by a field goal. Prior to the division stretch of the schedule, the Chargers had a margin of victory of 20.7 points in games they won. No team had come within six points of them as their opponents did in each of the past three wins.

"All coming down to the last drive in the fourth quarter," LaDainian Tomlinson said.

Reserving judgment until after the games panned out proved to be fruitful. Many of the players did not want to begin the celebration before it was time.

"Coming out of the bye you say these are three huge weeks and you say that you could win them all but you know it is a tough feat to do that," Brees said. "‘If we could be sitting here at 9-3 then that would be great' and here we are."

The talk remains about what can be instead of what has been. With a two game lead in the division the Chargers are in the driver's seat.

That doesn't mean the padding is enough just yet. If they aren't careful, they could find themselves sitting on leather in the middle of the summer without any air conditioning – stuck.

"It's not over yet," Broncos' safety John Lynch said. "I've played in this league a long time and I know stranger things have happened."

There have been many colossal collapses in the NFL and the Chargers know it well after jumping out to a 6-1 start two years ago. The Vikings began their year at 6-0 before losing seven of the next ten and on the outside looking in.

The goal is the division for San Diego. That gives them a home playoff game, a crowd boost heading into next year no matter how they fare and confidence that this team can continue its winning ways.

"The only thing I know for certain, eleven will get you in," head coach Marty Schottenheimer stated. "Ten probably wont get you in. The best way for us is to win the darn division and the best way for us is to keep winning football games."

The magic number is now two based on the coaches' assessment and depending on what games the Chargers win it could mean the division crown even if Denver was to sweep the rest of its games.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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