Chargers-Broncos Has Renewed Significance
FB Mike Tolbert (Donald Miralle/Getty)
FB Mike Tolbert (Donald Miralle/Getty)

Posted Nov 16, 2009


What looked like an unlikely showdown just a few weeks ago is on Sunday: Chargers vs. Broncos in Denver.

When they teams last met on Oct. 19, the Chargers got thumped by the Broncos as undefeated Denver extended its lead to 3.5 games in the AFC West.

The Chargers, the three-time defending AFC West champions, were left considering their wild-card chance to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

But with the Broncos losing their last three games, the Chargers enter Denver no longer needing binoculars to see Denver in the standings. They caught them at 6-3 by winning three straight.

Last season the Chargers won their final four, while Denver lost its final four, to win the AFC West.

"We've been in this situation before," Shawne Merriman said. "It's nothing new to us. You hate to start off the way we started off the season sometimes, but when our backs are against the wall, we've shown that we can go out there and perform and we've been doing that."


WR Legedu Naanee
Kevork Djansezian/Getty
The Chargers have tightened their defense by making roster moves and switching some starting spots. And now the running game is showing a pulse, which is a fine complement to one of the NFL's top passing attacks.

"It's going to be a big game," Antonio Cromartie said. "It will probably be an atmosphere like we had in the last game of the season last year."

That was when the Chargers thumped the Broncos at home to complete a stunning comeback and send the Broncos into a season of upheaval.

But coach Norv Turner isn't worried about the Broncos.

"I'm not a scoreboard watcher," he said. "I never have been and won't be. We have to take care of our own deal. Teams in our division are playing awfully good teams all the way through. Teams are going to take hits."

The Chargers got their share, but most of them came when the season was young. Since, they've played like the team most expected.

"We came out of the first month of the season and we were a beat-up football team," he said. "We asked a lot of young guys to step in and play who had not played."

LINEUP WATCH: When Kevin Burnett and Tim Dobbins went out with injuries, Brandon Siler seized the opportunity. He showed such a physical presence that when Burnett returned, Siler stayed in the starting lineup. But he did so at the strong side, with the Chargers flipping Stephen Cooper over to the weak side inside spot. Siler, at the least, has earned a permanent spot in the rotation at the inside position and recorded his first career sack on Sunday.

BY THE NUMBERS: For years a trip to Denver for the Chargers meant one thing: They left with a loss. From 1995-2005, the Chargers lost 10 of 11 games in the Mile High City. But since Philip Rivers took over as the starter, the Chargers are 2-1 in Denver and the one loss came by one point last year, in part, because of a controversial call. The Chargers no longer seem so intimidated about playing in Denver, something that has switched in recent years.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--RT Jeromey Clary (ankle) had to leave the game Sunday and he could be compromised in practice this week.

--FB Michael Tolbert is usually asked to block and play special teams, but he proved his hands are reliable with a scoring catch Sunday, his first of the season and second of his career.

--OLB Jyles Tucker (ankle) could be another week away from playing.

--C Nick Hardwick (ankle) has a chance to play this week after being out since the season opener.

--ILB Tim Dobbins (knee) is expected back Sunday after missing two games with a knee injury.



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