LaDainian Tomlinson had a modest day on the ground but found other ways to torment the Denver defense. Tomlinson ran 21 times for 67 yards and caught three passes for 73 yards. Backup Michael Turner picked up the rushing slack, gaining 147 yards on ten carries – a healthy 14.7-yard average.
Turner did the bulk of his damage on a 74-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Turner was escorted down the sidelines by Kassim Osgood and Malcom Floyd, both of whom had stellar blocking games.
Antonio Gates joined Turner above the century mark, the first time Gates had done so in Denver. Gates hauled in seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Three of Gates' receptions resulted in third-down conversions, helping the Chargers complete 60% of their third-down opportunities.
Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates celebrate a touchdown.
The defense did its part as well, forcing three turnovers and holding the Broncos under 300 yards of total offense. Marlon McCree led the charge with a forced fumble and a team-best third interception. Quentin Jammer recovered the fumble and chipped in a team-best seven tackles.
The Chargers benefited from stellar inside linebacker play. Matt Wilhelm returned from a calf injury to finish second on the team with six tackles. Stephen Cooper contributed five tackles and a sack, the first sack by an inside linebacker this season.
The defense played its best when the stakes were highest. When the Broncos drove to the San Diego 14-yard line late in the first half, the defense stiffened and forced a field goal. The key stop came on third-and-6 when Clinton Hart made a great open-field tackle on rookie running back Selvin Young.
The defense ensured there would be no comeback, forcing the Broncos to turn the ball over on downs twice.
The special teams made their presence felt, too. Carlos Polk stripped the recently signed Brian Clark on his second kickoff return. The ball bounced into the arms of rookie Brandon Siler, who returned it 23 yards for his first career touchdown. Nate Kaeding made field goals of 20 and 45 yards and added five extra points.