The San Diego Chargers went to Denver with the season on the line. A loss meant the Chargers would be three games back with six games to play and without the tiebreaker (essentially four games back), and a win meant a chance to be in the AFC West race.
It was a must-win game for Norv Turner, who has been on the hot seat for the last few years. Turner's hot seat never got hot enough until Peyton Manning and the Broncos doused it in lighter fluid with a comeback win in Week 6 and tossed the match on it with a 30-23 win in Week 11. It’s not the first time a Manning has burned the Chargers and probably will not be the last.
Now there is no question that Turner will be fired; the only question is if general manager A.J. Smith gets burned by the inferno and goes down with him. It’s not every day you are talking about the job status of a head coach who has a .589 winning percentage and a general manger who has a .597 winning percentage for the organization.
It’s now up to ownership to determine if the gradual decline of the team since 2009 is the fault of the head coach, the man who constructed the roster or both. Once the ownership determines the fate of the brains of the organization, it might want to start to think about what to do with the arm of the franchise: Philip Rivers.
Rivers threw two more interceptions against the Broncos to bring his total to 34 in the last two seasons. One interception led to a Denver field goal that gave the Broncos their first lead of the game, and the other pretty much ended any chance at a comeback.
The offense led by Rivers scored just 14 points despite being given ample opportunities. The offense squandered help from the defense in the form of nine points and numerous defensive stops of Manning.
It really started to unravel for the Chargers when a blocked Mike Scifres punt gave the Broncos the ball back in Chargers territory with 1:51 left in the first half. Manning would strike quickly, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley to put the Broncos up two scores.
San Diego’s defense bailed the offense out with a safety that cut the lead to just eight points. Of course, the Chargers wasted that by allowing a sack by Von Miller, which forced Rivers to fumble and gave the Broncos the ball at the San Diego 25. A couple plays later Manning hit Eric Decker for a touchdown to put the Broncos back ahead by two scores again.
San Diego’s offense would finally respond with a 12-play touchdown drive, but the Broncos would drive 67 yards on the defense on the very next possession to make it a two-score game for a third time. The Broncos always seemed a step ahead.
With about nine minutes left Rivers threw his second interception of the game, which the Broncos turned into yet another field goal to make it 30-16 after burning through nearly five minutes of clock.
Rivers would score again in under three minutes, but the Chargers needed to recover an onside kick with less than two minutes to play to have a shot to tie the game. The Chargers wasted opportunity after opportunity and punted to Manning’s offense nine times.
The defense held Manning to a net of 21 points and yet the Chargers couldn’t muster enough offensively do anything better than pull within a score. Turner and Smith pointed the finger at special teams and defensive coaching in the past, but now that the problem is the offense there’s really no excuse.