DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12: Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a third quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
After the Chargers smacked the Giants 37-14 on Sunday, head coach Mike McCoy slipped up in his media session.
"We're going to beat Denver on Thursday night," said McCoy, sparking a healthy debate on whether or not he was guaranteeing a win over the Broncos, who had not lost to an AFC West opponent with Peyton Manning at quarterback since ever.
He says he was not. Maybe he should have.
The Chargers went in to Denver as 10-point underdogs and beat the Broncos 27-20 on Thursday night, their second win over a Manning in five days (which will forever tickle Bolts fans).
On a cold but clear night at Sports Authority Field, the Chargers won old-school style. They ran the ball 44 times for 178 yards, Ryan Mathews carrying it 29 times for 128 yards. That meant Philip Rivers only had to throw the ball 19 times, completing 12 of them for 166 yards and two touchdowns, both to rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen (his only two catches of the night).
Mathews capped a monster week. In the two games (remember, played just five days apart), Mathews had 58 carries for 231 yards, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career. Mathews has 10 career 100-yard games, four of them coming against the Broncos.
Allen basically won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award with his performance. His first touchdown was a 19-yarder where he hurdled one defender, landing on another and pushing his way in to the end zone. Allen has scored four touchdowns in his last two games, giving him seven for the season.
But, even more impressive than the offense's performance was the way the Chargers defense played. After allowing a touchdown on Denver's first drive of the game, the Bolts only gave up three points on the Broncos next five drives, including four 3-and-outs.
That kind of thing is borderline unheard of against a Peyton Manning-led offense that had not scored fewer than 27 points in a game at home, and was beating teams by an average of 20 points a game in Denver.
The Chargers forced Manning in to the only turnover of the game in the fourth quarter, when defensive end Corey Liuget hit Peyton as he threw and linebacker Thomas Keiser grabbed the errant pass for an interception to set up Nick Novak's 35-yard field goal with 2:36 to play, making a 2-possession game.
Manning only threw for 287 yards, his lowest total at home this season.
Denver played almost the entire game from behind, so they didn't have a chance to establish their running game. The Broncos only ran 11 times for 18 yards.
The Chargers improve their record to 7-7, and finish with two games at home against the Raiders and Chiefs. They'll need some help, but all of a sudden San Diego's playoff hopes are alive and well.