After only five games, the Chargers are trailing the Broncos by 3 1/2 games following Monday's loss to Denver.
The Chargers are trying to keep a stiff upper lip -- and what choice do they have?
"Anything is possible," linebacker Shawne Merriman said. "We've done it before."
The Chargers can lean on last season, when they trailed the Broncos by three games with three remaining. San Diego ran the table and Denver lost all three of its games to hand the Chargers their third consecutive AFC West title.
"It's not a position that we would like to be in, but we've done it before," Merriman said. "Whatever we have to do to get back into position, we're going to do it. That's an undefeated team we faced out there. We knew what they were going to do. We knew how good they were, and they came out and played their best and won the game."
The Chargers are still searching for those four quarters in which they put all three phases of their game together. Even in the Chargers' two wins, there were stretches in which they struggled.
They could climb back into the race, with AFC West games at Kansas City and against Oakland coming up. But to really be a factor, they need the Broncos to start losing games -- and that's no slam dunk.
"We can't worry about Denver and how far we are behind and if we can catch them," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "That team out there is a different Denver team in a sense that they aren't going to fall apart. They are here to stay and are going to bring it every week."
The same can't be said for the Chargers, as they are now under .500 in the last 21 games at 10-11.
"You're not going to get guys that are just going to give up," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "You know these guys are going to continue to fight every game and play until all 16 of them are gone."
The Chargers? They are just going, going, gone.
--Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was encouraged by some signs he saw that the long dormant running game is coming back to life.
"I think so," said Tomlinson, who rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries. "We are going to build on it and look at film. We will get a lot better."
--Rookie strong safety Kevin Ellison got the most playing time of his young career; he is taking some snaps that once went to the released Clinton Hart.
"I thought I played OK," Ellison said. "I'm still kicking myself for missing that tackle at the end. I have some things to work on and some solid things to do. I'll see it on film and know more after that."
--Count outside linebacker Shawne Merriman among those impressed with the undefeated Broncos.
"They played us to the end," said Merriman, who had five tackles but no sacks -- he's yet to get a sack this season.
--Cornerback Antonio Cromartie said the Chargers, despite being 2-3, will continue to fight the good fight.
"All you can do is grow from it," he said. "We'll come back (Tuesday) and watch the game and see where we messed up and grow from it."
--OLB Larry English suffered an ankle injury but should be OK.
--ILB Kevin Burnett sustained a sprained ankle and left the stadium wearing a boot; he could be down this week.
--RG Louis Vasquez, who has been battling a sore knee, also sprained an ankle.
--DT Ian Scott, the newest Charger, had a tackle for a loss among his two tackles in his 2009 debut.
--SS Kevin Ellison, a rookie, led the Chargers with seven tackles. Look for him to get more playing time at the expense of Steve Gregory.
REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Philip Rivers gets credit for standing in the pocket and absorbing one sack after another. He went down five times and was knocked around much more than that -- the pass-blocking was terrible. He managed to throw for 274 yards and a score.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Chargers tried to establish the running attack for really the first time this season. San Diego finished with 73 yards -- not much, but an improvement for the NFL's worst running team. LaDainian Tomlinson showed he still has some wiggle -- it would help if the run-blocking made more than a cameo appearance.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- Kyle Orton tossed the ball with ease and accuracy -- he missed on only nine of his 29 passes, throwing for 229 yards and two touchdowns. The trouble, again, is the lack of a pass rush, as he had time to go over his reads and pick the right target. If the pass rush never materializes, it is going to be a long season for the secondary.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- Another game, another team going over 100 yards rushing. There were some signs of improvement here, but they were so slight that they were difficult to decipher. But new DT Ian Scott appeared to clog the middle more than the Chargers have been accustomed to since Jamal Williams was lost for the season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- This would be a flat-out "F," but Darren Sproles did return a punt 77 yards for a touchdown, and Nate Kaeding did nail three field goals, including one from 50 yards. But the coverage units were terrible, as they allowed Eddie Royal to bring back a kickoff and a punt for scores.
COACHING: F -- Norv Turner has to be careful he doesn't lose this team. There were plenty of helmets being flung and looks of disgust along the bench as the Chargers once again fell short. That they did it at home added salt to the wound. Turner's coaching touch is hard to see -- other than the passing game enjoying his expertise.