Broncos Just Played Better

Monday night inside Qualcomm Stadium fans watched a statement game and it was the Denver Broncos making the loudest statement -- winning 34-23.  The Chargers drop to 2-3.

Listening to how theguys at tell it here are the headlines from the game: special team breakdowns, pass protection issues and a defense that couldn't get off the field in the second half." 

The Chargers had more red zone issues. This time, in the first quarter on 3rd and goal from the two-yard line. With LaDainian Tomlinson watching from the sidelines, Darren Sproles was stuffed. Coach Norv Turner had a chagrined look on his face as the Chargers had to settle for Kaeding's 20-yard field goal.

Tomlinson walked down the sideline toward the bench and flipped his helmet. When he and Turner spoke a few minutes later, L.T. didn't appear to be looking at the coach.

On the ensuing kickoff, Broncos Eddie Royal ran 93 yards on the return. He also scored with a 71-yard punt return in the second quarter.

"Man, it was a great feeling. The guys did a great job of blocking," he said of the second return. "I've got to give them a lot of credit. They opened up the seams and it was a home run."

Royal became the first player in Broncos history to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game, and the 11th player in NFL history to perform the feat.

Great for Eddie but a big let down from the normally dependable cover teams. Royal's electrifying returns at first silenced Qualcomm Stadium, then had Chargers fans booing.

Darren Sproles, one of the other players to have a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns in a game, had a 77-yard punt return for a San Diego score.

The three returns for TDs tied the NFL record for a game.

Rivers led the Chargers back but was pressured all night long. Denver did a great job applying pressure up the gut.

Even so, Rivers hung in there. He got the ball to Antonio Gates for a 21-yard gain then the touchdown toss to Vincent Jackson. After punt returns by Royal and Darren Sproles for scores it was 20-17 Chargers at the break.

Royal said the Chargers have aggressive special-teams players, and the Broncos knew they had to take them out.

"You've got to believe it can happen before you do it," he said. "I've got a lot of faith in the guys in front of me, so I wasn't surprised."

Coach Josh McDaniels agreed. "I think our guys did a great job of blocking and giving Eddie a chance to get started," McDaniels said.

"It doesn't matter who you are playing; you give up two big returns on a punt and a kickoff and it makes it tough," Chargers coach Norv Turner said.

This is the fifth time the Broncos have been 6-0, the first since going 13-0 in 1998 en route to winning their second straight Super Bowl behind John Elway. They opened a 3½-game lead in the AFC West over three-time defending division champion San Diego (2-3).

"It's going to be tough," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We have to get over this one quick or we'll find ourselves in trouble in Kansas City because it's a short week."

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Copyright AP - Associated Press
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