The San Diego Chargers kept the ball out of the hands of quarterback Peyton Manning Thursday night and handed the Denver Broncos an unexpected 27-20 loss at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
San Diego kept its offense on the field for 38:49, while the Broncos were only on offense for 21:11.
“I give San Diego’s defense a lot of credit,” Manning said, via the Broncos official website. They played well on defense and we were not as sharp – we just didn’t play as well and didn’t stay on the field. We didn’t have the ball much and when we had it though, we didn’t do enough with it. Give San Diego credit, they played better than we did.”
Manning said after the game that he’s seen a similar strategy from teams before.
“I’ve dealt with it before. Teams have tried a similar game plan before where they are snapping the ball with two seconds, one second (left on the clock),” Manning said. “(Chargers quarterback) Philip (Rivers) looks like he calls a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage and he’s trying to get them into a good play. When they’re doing that they are taking a lot of time off the clock. But hey, it’s our job to score points when we have the ball, no matter if we have it for 40 minutes or 20 minutes. We had it for 20 tonight; we didn’t do a good enough job on offense and that’s something that we have to correct.”
Phillip Rivers finished 12-for-20 for 166 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers. Ryan Mathews matched his season high with 127 yards on 29 carries.
Manning completed 27-of-41 passes for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
On the opening drive, the Broncos drove 67 yards in 7 plays and took a 7-0 lead after a 15-yard scoring strike from Manning to wide receiver Andre Caldwell.
“‘Bubba’ Caldwell played excellent,” Manning said. “He had a great route on his first touchdown, then a good job getting in the end zone. Fourth down, tight coverage (he was targeted) – so I think it tells you the confidence I have in him. (Offensive Coordinator) Adam (Gase0 called his number a couple of times and I went right to him.”
But the Broncos gained just 13 yards on the 13 plays they ran after taking a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter, allowing the Chargers to take a 17-10 lead to end the half.
Down 24-10, Manning connected with Caldwell again for a 5-yard touchdown pass to come within seven points of the Chargers in the fourth quarter.
But a Nick Novak 35-yard field goal and an unsuccessful onside attempt by the Broncos sealed the win for the Chargers.
“It’s a loss. That’s how I view it. Nothing besides that. It’s a division loss. It’s disappointing, but we got beat by a team that played better than us tonight,” Manning said.
The Broncos finish their home schedule 7-1. Denver plays at Houston Dec. 22 and at Oakland on Dec. 29 to finish the regular season.