Broncos leave Chargers gasping for air

Marty Schottenheimer has his record go to 3-11 in front of 72,123 fans at Mile High in Denver as the Chargers fall by the score of 26-9. With the loss, Oakland remains the only unbeaten team in the NFL. The Chargers and Broncos are now 4-1 on the season.

Two minutes into the game, Brian Griese hit Ed McCaffrey for a 69 yard touchdown reception. This came on the heels of a quick 3-and-out from the Chargers. The Broncos drive lasted :43 seconds and set an early tone for the game. The Chargers defense seemed confused on the play as the Broncos ran a quick no huddle play and the pass to McCaffrey was caught in an area normally where you would see Junior Seau patrolling.

On the next Denver possession the Broncos were driving. Griese threw a pass that was intended for Patrick Hape, but free safety Rogers Beckett nailed him as he was coming across the middle and caused the ball to pop up into the air where Rodney Harrison came down with an interception at the 8 yard line of San Diego.

The Chargers put together an impressive drive mixed with a lot of LaDainian Tomlinson and a few passes by Drew Brees. They got down to the Bronco 6 yard line when Brees threw a pass intended for Stephen Alexander but the pass was intercepted by Deltha O'Neal. It was the first time the Chargers entered the Red Zone and did not score.

The Broncos were bale to capitalize on the turnover as Griese shoveled a pass to Clinton Portis who ran it in for an 8 yard score. The Broncos converted on a 4th and 2 at the San Diego 35, and Griese was 9-9 on the drive.

On the kickoff from Denver the Chargers Tamarick Vanover muffed the kick at the goal line and brought it out to the 13 yard line. On the play the Chargers were called for holding so the drive started at the 7. After a conservative set of downs that resulted in a 3-and-out the Broncos Sam Brandon blocked Darren Bennett's punt. Bennett alertly punched the ball out of the back of the end zone to force a safety and the Broncos were up 16-0. The play happened as the Chargers only had 10 men on the field as Josh Norman did not come out for the second attempt. "It was just dumb on my part,'' Norman said after the game. Brandon noticed and had this to say, "I see they're short on the wing, and they're not checking me. I just put my head down and acted like I'm invisible.''

Off the free kick Denver went up 19-0 with a Jason Elam field goal with no time left at the half following a 60 play drive.

Brees threw 9 passes in the first half and it seemed the Chargers went conservative, choosing to run the ball with Tomlinson.

The Chargers came out with their first possession and drove 44 yards on 7 straight passes by Brees. With a 4th and 1 at the Denver 6 they chose to go for a field goal and get some points on the board. Steve Christie hit his 24 yard field goal making the score 19-3.

The Broncos again drove on the next possession but had to settle for a Jason Elam field goal attempt from 43 yards out. Ed Ellis partially blocked the attempt and gave the Chargers great field position and a chance to close the 16 point gap.

Four straight passes by Brees and the Chargers were punting again.

The Broncos could not muster enough of a drive on their next possession and punted the ball. Vanover fumbled the punt for his second gaffe of the game, but Keith Lyle recovered the ball at the San Diego 20. On the drive Tomlinson fumbled the ball after catching a screen pass. The ball was stripped by Izell Reese and recovered by Al Wilson. Denver was unable to convert on the turnover and punted it away.

With 3 minutes left in the game, Brees threw his second interception on the day and the second interception by O'Neal. O'Neal returned this one 28 yards for a touchdown to seal the win for Denver as they went up 26-3.

The Chargers scored an 8 yard touchdown from Brees to Conway through prevent defense on their last possession of the game. The Chargers attempted a 2-point conversion but could not convert.

Game Notes

The Broncos won the time of possession battle 33:17 to 26:13, and out-gained the Chargers in total yards, 417 to 314. Denver has not allowed a point in the first quarter.

Tomlinson was held to 48 yards on 14 carries, and only had one carry in the second half, while Denver running back Clinton Portis rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries in his first NFL start.

Griese ended the game 26 of 35 passes for 316 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Brees finished 26 of 42 for 235 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. One of those interceptions was returned for a Denver touchdown late in the game. 34 of the passes Brees threw came in the second half while trying to play catch-up.

Zeke Moreno started for the injured Junior Seau. Moreno had 11 tackles on the day to lead the Chargers but Seau and his leadership were missed. Seau missed only his 6th game in his 13 year NFL career.

Reche Caldwell caught his first NFL pass in the 4th quarter.

The Denver Broncos declared RB KaRon Coleman, CB Jimmy Spencer, G Lennie Friedman, T Cooper Carlisle, TE Jeb Putzier, DT Dorsett Davis and DE Keith Washington inactive for Sunday's game. Jarious Jackson is the team's third QB.

The San Diego Chargers declared RB Jesse Chatman, S Robert Carswell, CB Kevin House, RB Joey Goodspeed, LB Junior Seau, WR Eric Parker and DE Chris Demaree inactive for Sunday's game. Seth Buford is the team's third QB.

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