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Chargers Stopped Cold by Red Hot Broncos in 34-23 Loss

Last season the Chargers rose from the dead to eventually win the AFC West. If they are going to do that again in 2009, they are going to need lots of help. The team Monday night could have taken a big step forward in trying to win the west, but instead were undone by a red hot Denver Broncos team that simply overwhelmed them in the second half of a 34-23 Denver win.

The Chargers scored just three points in the second half, this after leading 20-17 entering halftime. They got a field goal to go up 23-17 in the third quarter, but from there had just 95 yards on four series, fumbling once, doing down once on downs, punting once, and missing a field goal to seal the Broncos win.

A big reason for the setback was a major letdown by the special teams. Denver kick returner Eddie Royal returned not one, but two kicks back for scores in the 11-point win. The first was a 93-yard kickoff return that erased a 3-0 Chargers lead. The second came after the Chargers tied the game at 10, and was a 71-yard punt return.

The Chargers took a 20-17 lead at the half, as they had some special plays of their own as Darren Sproles took back a kick 77 yards. The Broncos, who had dominated teams in the second half of their first five games, did it again against Philip Rivers and the Chargers.

They put massive pressure on Rivers, and seemed to have an answer for LaDainian Tomlinson. The Broncos offense rallied, with Orton playing pitch and catch with tight end Tony Scheffler, who scored on a highlight 19-yard catch to make it 24-23. He then pulled in a huge 52-yard catch with five minutes left to set up the final Broncos TD to ice the game.

Orton was 20-for-29 for 229 yards with two TD’s and a QB rating of 115.4. Scheffler had six grabs for 101 yards with a score, and the Broncos outgained San Diego 328 to 311. It really was the Denver shutdown D in the second half that paved the way for them to walk out of San Diego with their first 6-0 mark since 1998.

The Chargers are now 3 1/2 games behind the Broncos in the west. It may only be the middle of October, but it seems like this bolts crew is going to have an uphill battle the whole year if they want to play into the middle of January.

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