Big Win Comes with Hefty Price for Chargers

The Chargers got their fifth consecutive victory and a spot atop the AFC West standings, but it came with a cost.

Right tackle Jeromey Clary suffered an ankle injury that will likely shelve him for the rest of the regular season.

The Chargers, though, are reluctant to put Clary on injured reserve, hoping if they make a late playoff run he might be able to go.

So look for Clary to stick, but likely not do much until late in the season.

That was the sense coach Norv Turner gave a day after the Chargers thumped the Broncos 32-3.

There was also troubling news off the field.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who had an interception in Sunday's win, is under investigation for assault with a deadly weapon. He is accused of throwing of a champagne bottle in a San Diego bar altercation.

Cromartie was out early Monday morning after the team's big win.

NOTES, QUOTES


LB Shawne Merriman
Stephen Dunn/Getty
--Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman couldn't hide the significance of Sunday's win.

"I'd love to say it's just another game, but we were playing for first in the division. This game meant a lot to a lot of us," Merriman said.

--Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was scratching his head when Denver's Chris Simms trotted out with first team instead of Kyle Orton. Orton was battling an ankle injury.

"I was surprised Orton didn't start the game," he said. "I saw him in pregame, and he looked good throwing the ball."

--The win was the Chargers' fifth straight.

"We never panicked," inside linebacker Stephen Cooper said of the team's reaction after a slow start to the season. "Look up and down our roster, and you will see All-Pro caliber players."

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Luis Castillo (calf) could sit out Wednesday's practice.

--ILB Kevin Burnett continues to shine after missing three games recently with a knee injury. He had his best day as a Charger on Sunday with seven tackles and two sacks.

--LB James Holt is making his mark on special teams. He had two more tackles Sunday.

--WR Legedu Naanee continues to get more playing time. Naanee had a scoring catch for the second straight week.

--DB Paul Oliver is playing more thanks to his productivity. He had four tackles, one for a loss and a pass defensed.

--FB Mike Tolbert continues to prove he can do more than block and play special teams. The Chargers are eager to slip him some carries, and he has responded. He had 58 yards and a score Sunday -- including a 32-yard run.

--OLB Shawne Merriman (foot) held up OK in the game.

REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Philip Rivers was accurate again, missing on only one of his 14 first-half passes and hitting 17 of 22 overall. Rivers didn't have to be great, just manage the game while leaning on the running game. San Diego's pass-blocking was keen; the Broncos had five sacks in the earlier meeting and none in this one.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- This unit had its best game of the season with 203 rushing yards. With a comfortable lead, the Chargers were able to sock the game away on the ground while giving this piece of the offense a chunk of confidence.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- Chris Simms and Kyle Orton didn't look comfortable, with the secondary playing well and a pass-rush that pestered them both. The Chargers allowed just 181 yards, and that was against an offense that was throwing often to get back into the game. Antonio Cromartie got a pick, and Eric Weddle was active with six tackles.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- There were a few leaks here on the Broncos' decent-looking drives, but some adjustments were made, and Denver had to start heaving the ball. But the Broncos did gain 115 rushing yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Chargers were much better in this area after allowing two returns for scores in the previous matchup. The coverage units were fine. Nate Kaeding boomed five touchbacks thanks to the thin air, and he went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts.

COACHING: A -- Having noted the Broncos' pass rush in the teams' first meeting, Norv Turner had the offense turn to short and medium routes to get the ball out fast. With the safeties on their heels, the short stuff worked, and the running game re-established itself. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera went after the Broncos quarterbacks, and the pass rush was effective without Shawne Merriman having a big day.

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