Well that didn't go as expected...
It is the NFL, so I'm not quite sure why I expected a "typical" Denver blowout. In what was supposed to be a college-like scoring fest, the San Diego Chargers played this game like a Week Six team. They were able to tackle Indianapolis for a 10-point win at home in that game.
This time, they went into the home of the beast and took what was rightfully Denver's. With last night's 28-21 game, Phillip Rivers and the Chargers are back in the thick of the playoff race. With Baltimore (@Detroit) and Miami (New England) losses, San Diego would be tied with the Ravens and Dolphins at 7-7 in the AFC Wild Card race.
Keeping that stat in mind--we really need to sit back and think about what really happened. Seriously, the 6-7 Chargers couldn't have possibly beaten Peyton Manning and his Broncos, right?
It happened. Here's how:
With 5:17 to play, right after a 15-yard horse-collar foul on Eric Weddell, Peyton Manning faced pressure from the left side of the line. Instead of wisely taking a sack with more than five minutes left, he tried to squeeze in a pass to Julius Thomas. That pass went on to be intercepted by Thomas Keiser-- crushing Denver's hopes at victory.
Player of the Game:
While it was Philip Rivers that was on-point all night, the real impact player was Ryan Matthews. He rushed for 127 yards over 29 carries, including a 23-yard TD on San Diego's first drive of the second half. Matthews eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season with his performance last night.
Putting Pressure on Peyton:
Any thought of running the ball last night was simply a joke for the Broncos. Knowshon Moreno rushed for just 19 yards, averaging just 2.0 yards per rush. This forced Manning to throw in the below-40 degree weather, which never seems to work well, to put it lightly. As NFL Network noted, the Broncos went 3-and-out three straight times last night--the first time this season.
What Lies Ahead:
Interestingly enough, with last night's victory, all San Diego might need to do is win their next two games to secure a playoff spot. If that happened, Baltimore must win two of their next three, and Miami the same. Both teams play New England and Baltimore plays Cincinnati on the road in the final week.
The Chargers have the Raiders and the Chiefs, but in Week 17, it could be Kansas City who is done for the regular season, resting starters for the post-season. There's a possibility that Chase Daniel starts for Kansas City in the final game of the season.
It wasn't pretty, but Mike McCoy's bunch got the job done on the finale of Thursday Night Football. Could it now be the Chargers that have the best chances for the 6th seed?