San Diego, CA (Sports Network) - LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 96 yards and three touchdowns, and the Chargers completed an improbable regular season- ending run, thrashing Denver, 52-21, to win the AFC West Division title.
Darren Sproles had 115 yards on the ground and a score for San Diego, which captured its third straight division crown thanks to winning its final four regular season games. Philip Rivers connected on 15-of-20 passes for 207 yards and a pair of TDs for the Chargers, who won their 14th straight December game and became the first 8-8 division champion since the Cleveland Browns captured the AFC Central with the same mark in 1985.
It will be a familiar playoff opponent for the Chargers, who will host Indianapolis (12-4) next Saturday night at 8 p.m. (et). San Diego eliminated the Colts in the divisional round last year with that game taking place in Indianapolis. The Colts, winners of their last nine games, beat the Chargers in San Diego earlier this season, picking up a 23-20 win on Adam Vinatieri's 51-yard field goal with no time remaining on November 23.
Rivers had 34 passing touchdowns on the season, a franchise-record, passing the mark of 33 set by Dan Fouts in 1981. Also, Tomlinson has 126 career rushing TDs, passing Marcus Allen for second-most in league history.
A victory against the Broncos avenged a controversial 39-38 loss for San Diego (8-8) at Denver in Week 2, a result aided by referee Ed Hochuli's errant whistle on what should have been ruled a Jay Cutler fumble in the closing moments. The call allowed the Broncos to maintain possession, score a touchdown and pull out the win with a gutsy two-point conversion.
Denver became the first team since NFL divisions were formed in 1967 to miss the playoffs after holding a three-game lead with three to play. It was an ugly end to the season for the Broncos, who lost by 20 points at Carolina on December 14 and faltered at home in a 30-23 final to Buffalo last week before getting blown out by their divisional foe.
Cutler completed 33-of-49 passes for 316 yards with a score and was picked off twice for the Broncos (8-8), who lost out on the division thanks to a 3-3 mark against AFC West opponents, compared to a 5-1 record for the Chargers.