The final word

After looking at the game tape of the Chargers loss to Denver, it is hard to believe they were even in the ballgame.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Drew Brees gets a back-slap or two for standing in tall against a consistent, blitzing pass rush. He threw one pick, though, which turned the game around. And lost a fumble when blindsided -- probably should have got the ball out quicker. That being said, the real crime here was the pass blocking which was terrible. Brees was often met in the backfield with shirts of another color. Antonio Gates was up to his old tricks, leading the team with six catches for 80 yards -- many of them in traffic. Keenan McCardell continues to show he still has some tread on his tires. But it won't matter unless the big uglies can get it right.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- See above. The run-blocking was dismal as LaDainian Tomlinson couldn't even make it to the line of scrimmage on numerous occasions before getting smoked. He only had 12 yards on his final 11 carries. And seven of his final eight rushes were for 2 yards or less. Pitiful.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The secondary didn't get torch marks this week, although it still seems to give way too much cushion as if it is playing scared. Jake Plummer had plenty of time -- he did get sacked three times -- for the most part and threw for 248 yards and an interception. Trouble continues to find Sammy Davis at the nickel back spot and it's not a Sunday of NFL football without at least one pass interference call on Quentin Jammer.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Kept the Broncos under 100 yards, but by just 2. The Broncos turned to Ron Dayne -- remember him? -- down the stretch and he did something against the Chargers he couldn't do throughout his disappointing career -- gain consistent yardage. This unit did force a fumble by a hurting Mike Anderson at the San Diego 2. But as the game wore on, this unit wore out. And that comes from an offense failing to convert on its final third-down conversions. The defense could never stay off the field for an extended period of time.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The field position was horrible for the Chargers all day. They never did win the kicking game as Mike Scifres was average and returner Darren Sproles never could break a long one. If not for a silly penalty for too many men on the field, this unit would have also given up a 61-yard punt return for a score. Nate Kaeding was true on his lone attempt. But this unit took a step back from the opener.

COACHING: F -- The brain trust continues to seem befuddled on how to attack a blitz. Where's the swing pass to Tomlinson -- no receptions in two weeks; he caught 100 passes in 2003. Where's the screen, the misdirection, the toss. Nothing. This is like having a high-performance vehicle and driving around on a kiddy go-cart track. It's unreal how little this offense is producing. Some of that falls at the players' feet, but also some at the coaches. Not sure what OL coach Carl Mauck is telling that offensive line, but he would be wise to put a call into Miami to ask Hudson Houck -- the OL coach last year -- what works with this bunch.

Broncos Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- The Broncos didn't stretch the field much. Their longest pass play was 26 yards, but it was a short pass that Mike Anderson turned up field for a big gain. They did make a few plays passing the ball, which kept the team going. Jake Plummer had a tipped pass intercepted inside the 20-yard line.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Ron Dayne saved the Broncos running game late in the fourth quarter when he rushed for 38 yards on six carries. Mike Anderson, who played hurt, was ineffective before that. However, San Diego has a very good run defense and plays its best against Denver.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Drew Brees can't figure out the Broncos. He had 175 yards and didn't have a touchdown, and had only 65 yards passing after halftime. Champ Bailey picked off Brees for a game-changing interception and returned it for a touchdown to start the second half. Denver's pass rush awoke in the second half and had four sacks.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- LaDainian Tomlinson had two touchdowns, but he gained only 52 yards and averaged 2.7 yards per carry. In the second half, San Diego had only 16 rushing yards on 11 attempts. The Broncos swarmed the ball and allowed one carry of more than 12 yards -- a misdirection pitch play that Tomlinson picked up 16 yards and a touchdown on.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Darrent Williams had a 61-yard punt return touchdown brought back when the Broncos came on the field to celebrate too soon. But he still gained 37 yards on that return counting the penalty, and that play was a momentum changer for the Broncos. Todd Sauerbrun hasn't been that consistent on punts yet, but it hasn't hurt the Broncos.

COACHING: B -- The Broncos took a chance with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, going for it on fourth and 1 instead of kicking a 50-yard field goal. The gamble worked when Ron Dayne picked up 10 yards. Defensively, the Broncos bottled up San Diego. They still didn't move the ball very effectively on offense, however; the second straight week that has been the case.


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