Surging Chargers Stomp the Broncos in Denver

The San Diego Chargers rushed for 203 yards and ran away from the Denver Broncos in a 32-3 romp Sunday at Mile High. The win boosts the Chargers to 7-3 and leaves them alone in first place.

One season after being on the wrong end of bad voodoo in Denver, when Ed Hochuli's blown call gifted a win for the Broncos, the Football Gods smiled upon San Diego. The Chargers caught numerous breaks -- from Knowshon Moreno's fumble on the goal line to Denver's near recovery of an onside kick -- that prevented the Broncos from really competing in a game that got out of hand in the second half.

The Chargers did their part to ensure the win.

Philip Rivers led the offense by completing 17 of 22 passes (77 percent) for 145 yards and a touchdown to Legedu Naanee. He led San Diego to scores on each of its first three drives, giving his team a 13-0 lead and the ability to lean on its running game.

"In this game and the last four weeks, [our offensive linemen] have been unbelievable," Rivers said. "And in this game, the Broncos didn't blitz nearly as much [as they did in the first meeting]. It kind of surprised us."

LB Kevin Burnett
Doug Pensinger/Getty
San Diego's runners answered the bell with four logging seven-plus attempts. LaDainian Tomlinson looked strong again with 73 yards and a score, while the FB tandem of Mike Tolbert and Jacob Hester took over late to combined for 14 carries, 104 yards and a TD by Tolbert.

San Diego ran more than its passed (43-22) for the second straight week and the fourth time this season.

"When you do that, offensive lineman love it," Norv Turner said. "It's nice to do that and to keep growing as a football team."

With the offense clicking on all cylinders, the defense followed suit and kept Denver out of the end zone. The strong effort was keyed by three big takeaways -- Steve Gregory recovered two fumbles and Antonio Cromartie had his third interception in the last four games -- as well as three stops on fourth down.

The pass rush was strong yet again with Shaun Phillips getting a sack-and-strip and Kevin Burnett recording the first multi-sack game of his career.

Turner is pleased with the defense's continued improvement.

"The moves we made a month ago with Kevin Ellison and Steve Gregory, and some of the things we've done up front, they've help us," he said. "We just keep getting better."

The Chargers are now 7-3 and alone in first place in the AFC West. They also erased Denver's tiebreaker by splitting the season series.

The next tiebreaker in line is divisional record; the Chargers are 4-1 in the AFC West and will round out their divisional schedule when they host the 3-7 Kansas City Chiefs next week. The Chiefs are coming off their biggest win of the season, an overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was made possible by a gigantic game by former Charger Chris Chambers (four catches, 119 yards).

The Chargers, however, are less concerned with their opponent and more worried about their continued improvement.

"You don't want to start slowly, but we fought back earlier this year and we're playing our best ball now," Rivers said. "Hopefully, we can keep that going through December as we have in the past."

Injury Update

The biggest concern is a leg injury suffered by RT Jeromey Clary in the fourth quarter.

"Clary's injury is going to be more serious than I'd like it to be," Turner said.

If Clary misses time, he'll likely be replaced by backup tackle Brandyn Dombrowski. The Chargers also have first-year tackle Corey Clark, a 2007 seventh-round pick from Texas A&M who was called up from the practice squad just last week.

Another option, if center Nick Hardwick returns against the Chiefs as expected, is to move Scott Mruczkowski to right tackle. Mruczkowski (6-foot-5, 325 pounds) has the size to play the position and has practiced there in the past.

What are fans saying about Sunday's game? Visit our message boards and check out the official in-game thread.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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