Chargers must start strong

Every team aims to start fast and finish strong, but this week the Chargers may not be able to do the latter without first accomplishing the former. The Broncos boast a stifling defense and an opportunistic offense, so the Chargers cannot afford to fall behind in this clash of AFC West co-leaders.

The Chargers have made a bad habit of falling behind early on the road. They trailed 14-0 after the first quarter in Kansas City and 21-0 at the same point last week in Cincinnati.

Although the Chargers came back to win against the Bengals, there is no way they can overcome such a deficit against a Denver defense that has allowed fewer points than any other unit in the league.

"It is going to be huge for us to start fast," Philip Rivers said. "You have to be smart and take care of the ball, but we can't expect to dig ourselves in a hole and come away with a win."

Another reason starting fast will be so crucial is that it could help quiet what is sure to be a raucous crowd. Invesco Field is one of the league's loudest venues, and the last thing the Chargers want to do is give the Denver fans reason to cheer.

Also, the Chargers know first-hand how turnover prone Jake Plummer can be when he is forced to throw the ball frequently. The only way to bring that scenario to fruition is to jump out in front and force Plummer to pass his team back into the game.

But perhaps the ultimate reason to come out of the gates strong is to keep LaDainian Tomlinson from become a mere bystander.

"I haven't had the ball much in Denver," Tomlinson said. "They end up taking me out of the game. We get behind and we're not running the ball much."

The Broncos, however, are not going to let the Chargers come out and just take the lead from them.

This game will have heavy postseason implications and Denver is well aware of it.

Although it is dangerous to put too much stock in winning a midseason game, both clubs realize what is at stake.

"Any time that you deal with a division game, an AFC West game, I think that everybody understands how important it is to win division games," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "Obviously, the tiebreakers at the end of the year decide all the possible bye-weeks and that doesn't need to be talked about but it is there."

While playoff seeding won't be settled until the end of the season, the Chargers can take a big first step towards a first-round bye with a strong start in Denver.


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