That’s about the only way to describe the Chargers 11-point home loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Monday night, a game they squarely had in hand when they went into the halftime locker room up 24-0.
”When you lose it’s rough, especially in a game where you had a big lead and so much at stake,” Chargers QB Philip Rivers said.
Maybe if Rivers didn’t turn into a turnover machine, things would have been different. All the QB did was throw for 242 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions and two fumbles for the Chargers, who dropped their second straight game and are also on a bye next week.
He also threw three picks in the fourth quarter, a 15 minute span that saw the Broncos outscore the Chargers 21-0.
San Diego struck first after Denver’s Trindon Holliday muffed a punt and Dante Rosario recovered the loose ball at the Broncos’ 17-yard line.
The Chargers would not record a first down, though, and were forced to settle for Nick Novak‘s 32-yard field goal with 8:59 left in the first quarter.
Omar Bolden then had the ensuing kickoff punched out of his hands by Darrell Stuckey and the Chargers took over at the Denver 19-yard line, resulting in Antonio Gates‘ 15-yard touchdown reception two plays later.
The Broncos seemed poised to cut into their deficit thanks to a turnover in the second quarter when Jim Leonard intercepted a Rivers pass and a 55-yard reception by Eric Decker moved the ball to the San Diego 26-yard line.
But two plays later, Quentin Jammer intercepted a Manning pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown, making it a 17-0 game with 6:00 left in the half.
San Diego added to its lead following a Denver punt when a defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-4 kept a drive alive before Rivers capped the 10-play, 66-yard march with an 11-yard strike over the middle to Gates to take a 24-0 lead into the break.
After that, it all fell apart.
The Broncos received the ball to start the third quarter trailing, 24-0, and were able to get on the board with an 8-play, 85-yard drive that did not include a third down and was finished off with Demaryius Thomas‘ 29-yard touchdown catch.
After San Diego nearly turned the ball over on the ensuing possession when Randy McMichael fumbled on a short reception that was recovered by teammate Ronnie Brown at the Chargers’ 35-yard line, Elvis Dumervil knocked the ball out of Rivers’ hand during a sack three plays later and Tony Carter returned it 65 yards for a score, bringing Denver within 24-14 with 4:41 left in the third.
The Broncos regained the ball at their own 45-yard line following a Chargers punt and Manning found Jacob Tamme for a 25-yard gain on a 3rd-and-16 to move the ball into San Diego territory before capping the 9-play trek by hitting Decker with a short pass to the right and the receiver muscled his way across the goal line for a 7-yard touchdown to make it a three-point contest with 13:33 remaining in the game.
Carter then made a leaping interception of a Rivers pass on San Diego’s next touch and returned it 15 yards to give the ball back to Denver at midfield.
Manning took advantage of the favorable field position with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley on the right side of the end zone to go on top, 28-24.
The Chargers moved the ball to the Denver 41-yard line on their ensuing possession looking to regain the lead, but Rivers threw his third interception of the game as Chris Harris made a diving grab of a pass over the middle to end the threat.
San Diego regained possession after forcing a Denver punt and advanced to its own 45-yard line, but Harris recorded his second straight interception by stepping in front of Eddie Royal and racing 46 yards down the right sideline for a score.
The Chargers could do nothing in the second half, which is why they will enter the bye week with such a bitter taste in their mouths.