Any mid-season signs of the Denver Broncos’ offense coming down
to Earth have been silenced by their big numbers in consecutive
weeks against respectable defenses.
The San Diego Chargers have fit that description the last two
weeks, and their slim playoff hopes now hinge on containing Peyton
Manning on Thursday night and handing the Broncos their first home
loss of the season.
The Broncos (11-2) are in the AFC West driver’s seat after
clinching a playoff spot and putting up a season-high 551 yards in
Sunday’s 51-28 win over Tennessee. Their 1,086 offensive yards in
the last two weeks is their best two-game stretch of the
Wrapping up a postseason berth doesn’t change much for the team
going into Week 15.
“I guess you have some security but our job is not finished
– winning this division is number one and winning this
conference is number two,” wide receiver Eric Decker told the
team’s official website. “And we have to make sure that we get
better as a team as a whole. We have a big goal and expectations
for this year and that’s just one week at a time and grinding
At 6-7 following Sunday’s 37-14 home win over the New York
Giants, the Chargers don’t have any room for error in their final
“I can’t wait,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “It’s going to
be a great challenge. As a competitor and an athlete in the NFL,
these are the opportunities you want. We worked ourselves into a
hole and we have to depend on other people, but the only thing
we’re focusing on is what we can control, and right now that’s
Controlling Denver, however, has rarely happened this year.
Manning has thrown for 800 yards, nine touchdowns and two
interceptions in the last two weeks, and his 39 completions against
the Titans set a team record. With 45 TDs on the season, he is five
shy of matching Tom Brady’s single-season record from 2007 – which
eclipsed Manning’s then-record of 49 set with Indianapolis in
He can match that personal best with another big performance –
he’s thrown at least four TDs seven times this season – though
he’ll likely have to do so without one of his top targets, Wes
Welker. The slot receiver is doubtful for this contest after
leaving Sunday’s game with his second concussion in four games.
The Broncos, however, have relied on plenty of weapons this
season. Welker scored against the Titans, making the Broncos the
first team in NFL history to have four players with at least 10
Tight end Julius Thomas returned from a two-game absence due to
a knee injury and caught his 11th TD pass of the year to join
Demaryius Thomas for the receiving team lead and set a franchise
record for tight ends in just 11 games.
Running back Knowshon Moreno leads Denver with 12 overall – 10
rushing and two receiving.
Decker isn’t far off from becoming the fifth with his eight TD
“All year, we’ve been talking about how dynamic our entire
offense is,” Julius Thomas said. “There are guys that maybe hadn’t
been getting as many touches in the beginning of the season. Now,
they’re going out there and they’re showing everybody what they can
The Broncos have won four straight against the Chargers,
including a 28-20 win in San Diego on Nov. 10, though the Chargers
held the Broncos to a season-low 397 yards.
San Diego’s 23-point win over the Giants was its largest margin
of victory since a 38-10 win on Sept. 16, 2012 against Tennessee.
And after allowing a total of 31 points in the last two weeks
against Cincinnati and the Giants, San Diego’s confidence is
“That is one of our better all-around games,” Chargers coach
Mike McCoy said. “Overall, in all three phases, guys were making
plays. It was different guys. We might not have thrown for X number
of yards, but (it’s) the way we won the game.”
Philip Rivers went 21 of 28 for 249 yards with three TDs, no
interceptions and a season-high passer rating of 137.4. The
Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead.
And that’s basically how they lost to Denver last month, falling
behind 28-6 on the first possession of the second half.
“The last time we played them, we made a number of mistakes that
hurt us,” McCoy said. “There were a number of things that happened
where we made some critical mistakes. We have learned from those
mistakes, but that is every game. I think, without a doubt, the way
we have played at times this year, the players know we can