It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. The San Diego Chargers, road underdogs and all but eliminated from playoff contention in the AFC West at 6-7, have been playing well lately, but surely Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos would continue their offensive dominance.
Of course, as they say, that’s why they play the game.
Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen‘s only two catches of the game went for the touchdowns that gave San Diego the halftime lead, and oft-injured running back Ryan Mathews led the way with 129 yards and the score that proved to be the difference maker to open the third quarter.
What’s most surprising about this game, though, is how the Denver defense gave San Diego so many more chances than they deserved. When Britton Colquitt‘s punt in the third quarter was downed at the one yard line, the Chargers were set to punt from their own end zone, when an offsides penalty extended the drive. Although the Chargers went on to punt, the time and field position that Denver sacrificed there were costly. These are the types of mental mistakes that will send teams home in the postseason.
In the end, San Diego dominated the time of possession battle, and in doing so were able to keep Manning off the field. Credit to the Chargers for finding the formula to bottling up the Broncos’ offensive juggernaut, but certainly this can’t be what the Broncos were looking for heading into the playoffs.
Why? Now the Broncos no longer control their own destiny in the AFC. If the New England Patriots win their remaining three games, the Patriots, not the Broncos, would have home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs. Obviously they’re a different machine without Rob Gronkowski, but the advantage of playing in the Mile High City is undeniable.
The Broncos will likely bounce back with two winnable games to round out the schedule, but losing momentum at this time of year is not a good look for a team with championship aspirations.