DE Igor Olshansky (Otto Greule Jr./Getty)
The Chargers did two things Monday night: maintained their No. 3 seed among AFC playoff teams and thumped the Broncos, 23-3. With their ninth win in 11 games this weekend, the first-place Chargers will face the Titans or Browns at Qualcomm Stadium during the first weekend of the playoffs.
"I think it's pretty important to be the third seed," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. Obviously when you're the third seed, you play the last team in."
The Chargers have been in for two weeks now, and the way they are playing, it appears they could hang around for a while.
The Broncos were thoroughly overmatched, scoring only three points -- the same total they had when the Chargers blasted them in Denver earlier this year, 41-3.
"That's the way we play," defensive end Igor Olshansky said. "We've played like this for the last six, seven weeks. Just go out there and dominate. That's what we do."
And they did it with their third AFC West title in four years already tucked away in their back pocket.
"I was pleased the way our guys came out and played and were ready to play," coach Norv Turner said. "Obviously, each of these games mean an awful lot to us."
And what could all this mean to the rest of the AFC? Not good things, if Turner can keep this team ascending when the stakes are at their highest.
"We're still a real young team, and we can keep improving and that's what we need to do -- keep improving each week and get ourselves ready to make a run."
It starts in earnest in a couple weeks, after a quick trip up north to play the Raiders. The Chargers hope to escape that black hole unscathed then set their sights on another black hole --the playoffs, where they haven't won a game since the 1994 season.
--WR Chris Chambers is easing into the Chargers just fine. He showed it again Monday night, as he is quickly becoming Philip Rivers' favorite wideout target. "Each and every game we just have been feeling more comfortable with each other -- what I can do and what he can do as well."
--K Nate Kaeding didn't sound too worried about his bruised left leg. "It's only going to get better from here with rest," he said. "Nothing is going to hinder me in the future."
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson said he would like to win his second consecutive rushing title as much for his blockers as himself. "I could see it in their eyes how important it is to them," Tomlinson said. "So I'm right on board with them and I definitely want to deliver for them." But Tomlinson didn't pad his lead, exiting during the third quarter after feeling his hamstring catch just slightly. Tomlinson said it's of no concern and he'll be ready to go Sunday in Oakland.
"I'm expected to start off the game playing and if that's the case, I'm not going to ease up or slide down when running the football," Tomlinson said. "We'll see what happens next week and see how it goes."
--The Chargers reached 10 wins Monday night, their second consecutive 10-win season, their third in the last four years and 11th in team history. The Chargers haven't won 10 games in consecutive seasons since 1980-81.
--The Chargers signed DT Ryon Bingham to a three-year contract extension that runs through 2010. Bingham, a fourth-year pro, was eligible to become a restricted free agent after this season.
Bingham, a former seventh-round pick, has filled in well with the injuries along the line to Luis Castillo and Jamal Williams; Bingham has 49 tackles.
--Coach Norv Turner tied his career high with his 10th win of the season. He also won 10 games in Washington in 1999.
--The Chargers swept the season series with the Broncos for the third time since 1992 and the ninth time since 1960.
--The Chargers allowed the Broncos just six points in two games this season, the fewest points ever allowed in two games combined against a division opponent.
--The Chargers have swept the series the last two seasons, winning four straight, and outscoring Denver 147-53.
--The Chargers are 2-0 all-time against Denver on "Monday Night Football."
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--QB Philip Rivers ran his starting record to 24-7 and has now thrown for more than 3,000 yards in each of his seasons as a starter after throwing for 189 against the Broncos.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson scored his 15th rushing TD, running his streak to four straight 15-TD seasons. It's the NFL's longest active streak. He also collected his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game and 44th of his career. It was his fifth 100-yard game against the Broncos.
--OLB Shawne Merriman had two tackles and a fumble recovery in his first game in two weeks after spraining his knee.
--K Nate Kaeding suffered a bruised lower leg, but still kicked three field goals. P Mike Scifres handled some of the kickoff duties.
--OLB Marques Harris broke his hand and will have surgery. But he is expected to be ready for Sunday's game in Oakland.
--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) hadn't played in more than two months but returned to action and was a force. He had a sack and a pass defensed.
--DT Jamal Williams (ankle) decided to rest his ailment against the Broncos. He could go on Sunday, but he would be used sparingly.
--TE Antonio Gates had only one catch for 24 yards, but his presence was felt more than just on the stat sheet. The Broncos committed two players to him on nearly every play, which opened options to Chris Chambers and the other receivers.
--S Clinton Hart had an interception Monday, his second in as many games and his career-high fifth of the season.