The San Diego Chargers easily handled the Denver Broncos during the AFC West title game, 52-21.
The Chargers led the Broncos 24-6 at the half. Bolts QB Philip Rivers was 10 for 14 in the first half, throwing one touchdown pass, which tied him for a team season record with Dan Fouts. Star running back LaDainian Tomlinson returned to form, scoring two touchdowns. The Chargers broke the ice with a field goal by Nate Kaeding.
Denver, however, answered quickly at the start of the second half, moving the score to 24-13. The Chargers rapidly responded with seven of their own, though, and soon after that, a Denver interception soon led to another San Diego touchdown and it was suddenly 38-13 with nine minute still left in the third quarter.
The Broncos again threatened to score, moving the ball to the nine-yard line, but they came up short and the Chargers remained 25 points at the end of the third quarter.
The Broncos managed to march down the field soon in the fourth quarter, and Jay Cutler connected with Tony Scheffler in the end zone. Cutler added a two-point conversion by running it in, making it 38-21.
It wasn't long before Darren Sproles exploded for 37 yards, all the way down to the Broncos' three-yard line, where he ran it in on the next play. It was the first rushing touchdown of the year scored by a Charger other than Tomlinson, who left in the second half with an abdominal strain and didn't return. Sproles soon had company. On the Chargers next possession, Jacob Hester scored, too, putting the exclamation point on the Chargers victory. Kaeding came in for the extra point, making it 52-21 with about two minutes left.
Chargers fans aren't alone in thinking the Bolts have a good shot next week when the Indianapolis Colts will play the Chargers in a Saturday playoff game at 5 p.m.
"These guys ... have to be the hottest team in the AFC," commentator John Madden said during the Broncos game.
"This is obviously history in they way we trailed the division and now won it," Rivers said after San Diego's fourth straight win -- and 14th straight in the month of December. "We all had the expectations to get here. We obviously went a different route than we thought we would. But we're here."
"It's a tribute to the guys who kept believing and kept fighting," said Tomlinson, who plans to have an MRI exam on Monday. "Very prideful guys in that locker room. And at the point we were 4-8, we didn't know what was going to happen with Denver, but for us it was about how were we going to finish."
It was a packed house at Qualcomm Stadium. For many fans, getting in the gate was a several hour process. Hundreds showed up in the morning at about 10 a.m., thinking the game started at 1 p.m. However, the game's start time was changed a week ago, and it was clear several people never got the memo.
No fans were allowed into the parking lot until 12:30. Three hours later, the parking lot was full. After spending more than an hour in traffic, hundreds of others were told they would not be able to park in the lot and were being encouraged to park at the Fashion Valley Trolley Station and take the trolley. Tensions were high for hours on Friars Road.
Fans, though, said it was worth it.