Chargers electrify but defense must step up

The San Diego Chargers are playing the most exciting brand of football seen in NFL history. Consider the high-flying acts – the Bolts have prevailed in each of the last four contests despite allowing 24 or more points per.

Chargers Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- OK, Philip Rivers had a couple of picks. But once again he doesn't fret when falling behind early, a mark of someone playing beyond his years and experience. LaDainian Tomlinson's 51-yard TD catch flipped the momentum. Front line does a good job protecting Rivers allowing a sack and one big hit. Funny they don't call Antonio Gates number early -- no receptions -- but he's a big target in second half.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- Front line shines here, helping to gain 125 yards on the ground. Tomlinson and his impressive moves account for some of that, but he is being given a seam to exploit with the blocking. Running game has turned left, behind LT Marcus McNeill and LG Kris Dielman -- both are playing well.

PASS DEFENSE: C --Drayton Florence's INT is late fuel on the second-half rally. S Marlon McCree sucks it up and plays on an ailing calf. McCree and Terrence Kiel were sloppy at times with their tackling. Teams are starting to find rookie Antonio Cromartie.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Broncos gather 158 here, a bad day for the unit but once which was playing with numerous injuries. Damien Nash's 26-yard pickup left a mark and Mike Bell averaged 4.5 yards. The Denver OL was pretty good, as usual.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Michael Turner gives the return game some juice with 44-yard return. K Nate Kaeding sets a career-high with three touchbacks, and a nice touch on another after a penalty. Broncos return game brags of 53-yard return by Cecil Sapp.

COACHING: A -- Marty Schottenheimer takes a blowtorch to his and the Chargers longtime Denver memories -- mostly bad. He lets loose the NFL's most explosive offense and some defensive adjustments by Wade Phillips produce another comeback. The Chargers are talent, but many a talented team hasn't shown the resiliency of this squad. Some of that credit has to go to the coaches.

Broncos Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Jake Plummer had another mediocre game. He didn't complete a pass in the first quarter, rebounded a bit when the Broncos were building a 24-7 lead, but then didn't finish strong. The Broncos couldn't keep many drives going. Plummer had a fourth-quarter interception on a fourth-down play that pretty much eliminated Denver's chances to win.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Mike Bell and Damien Nash brought some life to the running game. Bell didn't have any long runs, but he grinded out some tough yards. Nash was a pleasant surprise. He was on the practice squad only two weeks ago, but he had some explosive runs against San Diego. Tatum Bell missed the game with two injured big toes, and his status for this week is up in the air.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Darrent Williams' 31-yard interception return for a touchdown seemingly put Denver in control. The Broncos had played well up to that point. But Philip Rivers played well after that. San Diego's biggest play might have been a 51-yard pass to LaDainian Tomlinson when the Chargers caught Denver in a blitz and DE Ebenezer Ekuban was trying to guard Tomlinson out of the backfield.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Tomlinson had 100 yards and three touchdowns rushing. The Broncos bottled him up on some plays and were physical with him, but on others Tomlinson exploited the perimeter of Denver's defense for some nice gains.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Even with some good punting by Paul Ernster and a long kickoff return by Cecil Sapp, this unit did not play well. Many long returns gave San Diego great field position and put the Broncos defense in bad positions. The Broncos might have to make some changes on special teams because they have not played well all year.

COACHING: D -- The game plan seemed sound when Denver was ahead 24-7. But what followed was a tough collapse that will have ramifications for the Broncos all year. Denver never seemed to have the right answer when the Chargers were rallying. Letting a defensive end cover Tomlinson out of the backfield on a 51-yard catch was disastrous. And the Broncos special teams were a disappointment.


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