Road warriors

The Chargers return home on Sunday, boosted by two stunning road performances to sit atop the AFC West.

Awaiting them are their old rivals, the Raiders, who will be looking to avoid their seventh consecutive loss to the Chargers.

The Chargers have suddenly become the chic NFL team, what with battling from a 24-7 deficit on Sunday to defeat the Broncos, 35-24. That came on the heels of erasing a 28-7 lead in storming back to beat the Bengals, 49-42.

It's a little early to talk of teams having "it" -- but that hasn't stopped some.

There's a feeling among the locker room that this team could produce something special.

That confidence comes from knowing there is talent littered across the roster. It comes with having a veteran coaching staff that doesn't get snookered much by others.

Then there are those two wins in the last two weeks -- all serving as nice background music to the incredible feats of LaDainian Tomlinson.

The NFL's touchdown leader is sidestepping records and milestones with ease.

"I'm going along for the ride," Tomlinson said.

Even team president Dean Spanos is cautiously excited about what might ultimately develop. Especially after that stunner in Denver.

"Obviously we have not been successful here for so long and coming in and playing for first place and winning like this, and being down," he said. "I really think it shows the heart of this team. And I think a lot of good things are to come."

Philip Rivers, at 24, brushed off two picks, kept his head high and kept battling. Everyone else did the same and the result was the same: another unlikely road triumph.

"Nobody panicked," Rivers said. "And I put it behind me and said (to myself), 'I just have to keep playing.'"

"That a credit to our team, our maturity. We are a special bunch."

A bunch that is in and first place and primed to possibly do special things.

"We feel like we can score at any time," Tomlinson said.

Broncos peeved

The Broncos weren't happy about an encounter with an official on Sunday near the end of their game against the Chargers.

Cornerback Darrent Williams argued with an official and was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Williams said he was asking why linebacker Ian Gold was given a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness when the official started arguing with him.

"We're all grown men out there," Williams said. "You talk to a grown man in a way like he's a kid, we're going to talk the same way back to you. You cuss us out, we're going to cuss you right back out. You're not out there to cuss us out, you're out there to officiate a game.

"I've never had a problem with a ref since I've been playing football. I've never been cussed out by a ref, so it caught me by surprise."

Broncos safety Nick Ferguson was right next to the official and Williams, and Ferguson said he had never seen an official instigate an argument like that.

"Everybody was trying to find out what happened, and one of the referees walked up to 'D-Will' and told him to shut the 'F' up," Ferguson said. "'D-Will' was like, 'Why are you talking to me like that?' He's like, you guys have been 'witching' all night.

"(The ref) crossed the line."

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Monday he hadn't been able to talk to his players about the incident. He wasn't happy with two penalties being assessed before a kickoff.

"You've got to keep your poise at the end," Shanahan said.


Cecil Sapp returned kickoffs for the Broncos on Sunday and had a nice return. What will be remembered is his decision to fall on a kickoff at the 2-yard line before Denver's final drive.

San Diego was kicking from Denver's 40-yard line after two penalties, and the kickoff went high in the air. Sapp said he felt he needed to get on the ball before the Chargers did.

"They might recover the ball, so the first thing on my mind was see the ball and secure the ball," Sapp said.

Sunday's game was slipping away when Mike Shanahan decided he needed to gamble and go for it on fourth-and-4 at Denver's 38-yard line with 3:10 left. Jake Plummer threw an interception on the play.

"I felt like we needed to do something," Shanahan said. "We were behind. I wanted to go for the win. Obviously it didn't turn out very well."

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