National Football League
Chargers-Broncos Preview
National Football League

Chargers-Broncos Preview

Published Oct. 21, 2014 5:12 p.m. ET

Peyton Manning savored the moment when he set the NFL record for passing touchdowns last week. Then, with only a few days to prepare and the AFC West lead at stake, he and the Denver Broncos got back to work.

They'll host the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

Manning threw four touchdowns in a 42-17 rout of San Francisco on Sunday to pass Brett Favre for the top spot on the all-time list. Demaryius Thomas caught the record breaker, then later added a 40-yard TD reception to up Manning's total to 510.

That number could rise against San Diego, a team Manning has thrown a touchdown against in all 11 career meetings.


"We're playing a great team in the Chargers, a team we're very familiar with, as they are with us," Manning said. "They beat us last year, so we got to get ready on this short week."

Manning was 3-0 against San Diego with the Broncos before the Chargers defeated Denver 27-20 at Mile High Stadium on Dec. 12. Like the upcoming matchup, that game took place on a Thursday - a similarity coach John Fox dismissed, along with any implications for this contest.

"We don't live in the past," Fox said. "I've mentioned many times, you spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror, you crash, not looking ahead."

The Chargers, though, might spend some time dwelling on that victory as they prepare for this week. Philip Rivers threw only 20 passes, completing 12 of them for 166 yards, as San Diego punished Denver with its ground game. Ryan Mathews ran 29 times for 127 yards and a touchdown, and the Chargers outrushed the Broncos 177-18 in ending a four-game losing streak to Denver.

Mathews is sidelined with a sprained MCL, but Branden Oliver has successfully stepped into the lead role, rushing for 316 yards and two touchdowns while posting a 4.7 yards-per-carry average in three games as the feature back.

Oliver will face a Broncos run defense that ranks third in the NFL with 74.3 yards allowed per game, significantly better than the team's 101.6 mark of last season.

Most of the damage against Denver has come through the air. The Broncos rank 18th in the NFL with 242.5 passing yards allowed per game - a welcome statistic for Rivers, who is 10-7 against Denver in his career but has struggled recently in the matchup. He's thrown for more than 250 yards once and has seven touchdowns and six interceptions in the last four meetings.

Still, Fox knows better than to overlook him.

"He's a tremendous competitor," Fox said. "We go way back. When I was in the Carolinas, he played at N.C. State, so I had a chance to watch him perform. I know a lot about him as a competitor. I know myself and our organization and our team have great respect for him."

Rivers has 17 touchdowns, three interceptions and the third-highest passer rating in the NFL, but he is also coming off his least productive game of the season. He went 17 of 31 for 205 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 23-20 loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

The Chiefs limited Rivers' and the Chargers' opportunities by dominating time of possession 39:00-21:00. San Diego is fifth in the league in the category at 32:37.

''No one's trying to miss a tackle,'' coach Mike McCoy said of the Chargers' inability to get their defense off the field. ''I think when you have talented players in space, at times there's going to be a mismatch. We've just got to do a better job of it. We got exposed in certain plays there that made it look really bad. It's the basic fundamental of football. We've got to do a better job with it.''

San Diego had one possession in the third quarter and, apart from a final possession with 21 seconds remaining, two in the fourth.

It's a problem the Chargers could face again Thursday against Denver's high-powered offense. Ronnie Hillman, filling in for the injured Montee Ball, rushed for two touchdowns Sunday and Julius Thomas leads the NFL with nine touchdown receptions.

The Chargers will also be without cornerback Brandon Flowers after he suffered a concussion last week.


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