It was a game that started out looking like it would be déjà vu all over again as the San Diego Chargers allowed the Denver Broncos to march down the field unmolested on their first possession. Fortunately for the Bolts that was where the similarities to their Week 10 encounter with Denver would end, and thanks to a blockbuster performance by the running game the Chargers gained some serious traction in the race for the AFC’s final playoff spot.
Early on San Diego’s recently improving secondary looked as if they would passive and allow the Denver receivers to have their way, but after giving up free releases at the line of scrimmage and then getting picked apart by Peyton Manning in a zone defense early the D tightened up. Two consecutive three-and-outs really built some momentum for the unit, and then Keenan Allen took over the second quarter with two magnificent touchdown grabs.
Although the rookie’s two scores were huge, perhaps the biggest offensive story was running back Ryan Mathews showing up in a big way. His 127 yards on 29 carries with a score really aided the Chargers’ cause as they controlled the time of possession battle by a lopsided 38:49 to 21:11 margin. They did own the clock in the previous encounter with the Broncos as well and failed to pay it off, but this time they used the clock control offense to their advantage.
It’s hard not to credit the defense as well for a job well done as the unit surrendered just 295 total net yards on the night and a measly 18 net yards rushing. Forcing Denver to be an unbalanced team is usually what Manning and the Broncos do to opponents by getting out in front of them early, but the Chargers flipped the script in this one to take down the AFC West leaders.
Now the Bolts have 10 days off before resuming their march toward the postseason with two final home battles against the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. Getting this win on the road is a gigantic boost for the team heading into those last two games as they have already beaten the Chiefs on the road and lost a sloppy game on the road to Oakland earlier in the season before they actually found their identity.
This weekend will be a time for the team and fans alike to sit back and cheer against the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins as the Bolts are going to need a little help to make their first postseason appearance in four years. Winning over Denver gives Tom Brady and the New England Patriots some extra motivation of home-field advantage to take down the Dolphins on Sunday, and the Ravens face a gauntlet down the stretch of the Detroit Lions, the aforementioned Patriots, and then the Cincinnati Bengals.
Obviously taking care of business in the final two contests is mandatory, but it looks like the Chargers’ playoff hopes could get a serious shot in the arm over the weekend. The scoreboard watch is on as head coach Mike McCoy attempts to do the impossible and lead these Bolts back to the postseason in year one at the helm.