Insider's Perspective: Chargers vs. Broncos

WR Chris Chambers (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

On Sunday, the San Diego Chargers continued their season-long trend of playing their best with their backs against the wall. If that trend continues into January, San Diego will have plenty to be excited about.'s Michael Lombardo takes a look back at Week 17 to see what worked, what didn't and what's next for the Chargers.

What Worked

--QB Philip Rivers, who finished first in the NFL with a passer rating of 105.5, compiled a rating of 141.0 against the Denver Broncos. It was the second time this season Rivers went over 140.0, also doing so in Week 6 against the New England Patriots (141.9). Rivers posted a QB rating of over 120.0 in half of his sixteen starts.

--RB LaDainian Tomlinson showed renewed explosion in setting a season-high average of 6.9 ypc and ripping off a season-long 45-yard run. Tomlinson rushed for at least 90 yards for the sixth time this season before leaving midway through the second half with a strained groin.

--WR Chris Chambers got back into the act with three catches for 50 yards. It may not seem like much, but those are his highest numbers since Week 12 against the Indianapolis Colts. Chambers caught six passes for 61 yards in that game against Indy and may have to top those numbers for the Chargers to win on Saturday, especially if TE Antonio Gates (ankle) is compromised.

OT Jeromey Clary
Doug Pensinger/Getty

--One of the reasons the offense was so statistically dominant was because the Chargers dominated time of possession. San Diego held the ball for 36:07 compared to Denver's 23:53; the 12:14 differential was the largest enjoyed by the Chargers all season. The Chargers were able to stay on the field by completing 63 percent of their third downs, compared to Denver's 37 percent conversion rate.

--The Chargers were on fire in the red zone, scoring on 7-of-8 trips inside the 20-yard line. In fact, the Chargers scored on their first six possessions, not including the truncated drive at the end of the first half. The Broncos went 0-for-2 in the red zone by tossing an interception and turning the ball over on downs.

--The Chargers finished plus-two in the turnover department and that made all the difference. FS Paul Oliver made the biggest play of the game when he intercepted QB Jay Cutler in the end zone at the end of the first half. It was the first pick of Oliver's career. The second interception came from DE Luis Castillo, who corralled a screen pass that had been tipped by LB Shaun Phillips.

What Didn't Work

--The Chargers still struggled to get Tomlinson rolling on first down. LT logged eight carries on first down against the Broncos and six of them went for 2 yards or less.

--The defense failed to sack Jay Cutler, even though he dropped back to pass 49 times. The Chargers cannot afford to give that kind of time to Peyton Manning or he will pick them apart.

--RB Tatum Bell, who didn't rejoin the Broncos until Week 11, averaged 10.8 yards on eight carries and scored two touchdowns from more than 25 yards out. The Chargers were obviously keying on the pass and the Broncos took advantage to rip off some big plays on the ground.

--Once again, penalties were an issue. San Diego was flagged six times for 67 yards, which could have been far more damaging in a tighter contest.

What's Next

The Chargers will host the 12-4 Indianapolis Colts in a matchup that has become almost an extended division rivalry. The teams have played five times since 2004 with the Chargers going 3-2 in that span, including a road win in the Divisional Round of last season's playoffs.

If the Chargers win and the Baltimore Ravens beat the Miami Dolphins, San Diego would move on to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Chargers and Dolphins win, San Diego would advance to face the Tennessee Titans in what would be another rematch from last season's playoffs.

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. Recommended Stories

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