"Certain things are starting to open up for me," said Gates.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- LaDainian Tomlinson is the man again as he collects the single-season touchdown record while rushing for 103 yards and three TDs. Tomlinson is awesome, but don't overlook the maulers up front that are opening the smallest of creases for him to run through. In particular, the left side has been keen: C Nick Hardwick, LG Kris Dielman and LT Marcus McNeill. Even FB Lorenzo Neal got a rare TD on a trick play which the Broncos bit on. But Tomlinson is the standard other NFL running backs must be referenced to.
"There's no better feeling than to share it with the group of guys that's in that locker room," Tomlinson said of his record-breaking touchdown.
PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- A couple of hiccups here with a pass interference call on Drayton Florence and Marlon McCree and Stephen Cooper getting beat for a score. But the main thing here is the pass rush once again set the tone with four sacks. Shawne Merriman was a force with two sacks and two forced fumbles. He is simply a beast. Luis Castillo, back from an ankle injury, and Stephen Cooper -- filling in for the injured Randall Godfrey -- also had a sack.
"We eased up a little bit and we have to get better," said Merriman of the overall defense.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Broncos rushed for 162 yards, the most the Chargers have allowed this season. The defensive line didn't win as many battles as it usually does and credit goes to the Denver blocking schemes. And to be fair, 51 on those yards came on one carry with Tatum Bell found the edge. The Chargers will get that fixed; their run defense is usually among the NFL's best.
"It was a physical game as always," defensive lineman Igor Olshansky noted. "You have to stay focused and get off blocks and make plays."
SPECIAL TEAMS: B --Nate Kaeding is true on both of his field-goal attempts and P Mike Scifres has a net of 45.3 yards and two of his three efforts were inside the 20. The coverages were on the mark after slipping of late. Antonio Cromartie fumbled the ball on one kick return, but Schottenheimer seemed will to give him the benefit of the doubt -- for now.
COACHING: A -- With the Broncos stacking the line the Chargers do what they seldom do and that is unleash a vertical passing attack. It wasn't bombs away, but there was a 55-yard reception by Jackson, a 34-yarder to Eric Parker and a 26-yarder to Antonio Gates. Cam Cameron has shows his guts by calling a version of the fumble-rooskie on the Denver 4. Schottenheimer has got the team buying into the fact that no one should beat the Chargers at home. So far, the Bolts are 6-0 in San Diego.
Broncos Report Card:
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jay Cutler played poorly in the first half, had a very good third quarter, then a tough fourth quarter. The flashes he showed in the third quarter give Denver some confidence going forward. He completed 10 of 12 passes for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns that quarter, working mostly out of a spread formation. In the fourth quarter the Chargers' rush started to get to him and the Broncos couldn't move the ball.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Had the Broncos not fallen behind so quickly, their effectiveness in the running game might have been a huge factor. Tatum Bell went over 100 yards and backup Mike Bell was also effective. But the Broncos were down 28-3 at halftime and the running game didn't matter much.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- Philip Rivers completed many deep passes, and had a couple of nice touchdown throws to tight end Antonio Gates. The Broncos didn't get much of a pass rush, and cornerback Darrent Williams struggled against double moves. Rivers probably would have had more than 300 yards if the game would have been more competitive.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Even though LaDainian Tomlinson had more than 100 yards and three touchdowns against Denver, the Broncos didn't do a bad job containing him. Tomlinson broke a couple of good gains, but on many plays he was swarmed near the line of scrimmage. Two short touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, and the NFL record that Tomlinson broke on them, made the Broncos' performance look worse than it was.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Jason Elam kicked through a hamstring injury and hit all of his kicks. That was the good news. The flip side is that their coverage teams didn't play well again, and they haven't hit a long return in many weeks.
COACHING: D -- The Broncos were swamped at the beginning of the game. They got back in the game in the third quarter but couldn't tie it up in the fourth quarter. The Broncos' decision to switch quarterbacks two weeks ago doesn't look that good now, and they haven't had many answers during their first four-game losing streak since 1999.