The letter “D” of the alphabet stands out like a flashing neon light. “D” for devastating, disappointing, dark and a defeat.
The Denver Broncos roared from a 24-0 deficit, reeling off 35-straight points to post a record-setting comeback in beating the San Diego Chargers in Monday Night Football.
The damage done in the 35-24 Broncos victory is more than just a loss in the standings, but also in the collective psyche of the team, its quarterback, the defense, the coach and the city.
Peyton Manning drove the Broncos to three touchdowns in a row and his defense scored on a 65-yard fumble return and a 46-yard pass interception in the lopsided Denver win — all in front of an angry-mob sellout of Chargers fans.
The sellout crowd was so shocked at the second half collapse, they hardly booed.
Manning engineered his 47th career come-from-behind win, rallying his team from a mistake-prone first half. In the process, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers self-destructed, throwing four interceptions and fumbling twice when hit in the pocket.
The Broncos pushed their record to 3-3, and survived the toughest schedule to start the season in the NFL. The teams they played had a combined 19-9 record through six weeks of the season. For the Chargers, it was a gruesome collapse as they too will wake up in the morning with a 3-3 record.
But reality shows — San Diego has played three patsies and won, and gotten torched by three quarterbacks in their losses. Peyton Manning did what Drew Brees and Matt Ryan did — skewer San Diego’s defense.
Manning was 24-30 throwing the ball, and hit 13-straight passes in the second half comeback. It was a sizzling final two periods, considering his team nearly electrocuted itself with two horrible kick return fumbles in the first half that gave Rivers short fields and scores as San Diego took that early lead.
The loss is surely on Rivers, who has become prone to throwing balls into coverage, throwing balls off his back foot and for fumbling balls in the midst of the kind of heat quarterbacks take. It happens to all QBs, Tom Brady included, but it is happening to Rivers more and more, weekend to weekend.
The Chargers quarterback has now been sacked 18 times in six weeks, an ultra high number. Equally as repulsive are the turnovers — six on Monday night and now totaling 12 turnovers in six games.
Blame goes everywhere. The secondary continues to give up pass play receptions and touchdowns. Quentin Jammer took a pick back when the receiver ran the wrong route. He gets credit for the interception, but he got beat on the route. Antoine Cason continues to be a nightmare at the cornerback spot on the other side. Hard to imagine two DBs having as bad a two weeks as these guys have had — first against Brees and the Saints, then against Manning and the Broncos.
A fabulous 30 minutes of football in the first half was offset by the ugliest 30 minutes of football a team could play in a game they had won.
Appalling too is the fact Denver limped into the game. Veteran corner Tracy Porter did not play with injury. Star receiver Demaryuis Thomas played at half speed with a hip problem. Pass rusher Von Miller was in and out with a hip issue. Their offensive center is gone for the year. A starting defensive tackle is gone for the year with a triceps injury. And with all that, the Broncos still mounted a comeback and won a game they were getting pounded in.
The Chargers dominated the first half, got punched in the mouth in the second half and never recovered. And Coach Norv Turner deserves critique too. As Broncos coach John Fox made adjustments to deny tight end Antonio Gates any room to run routes in the second half, the Chargers never were able to go the other side to created mismatches to help their quarterback.
If Denver double-teamed Gates in the final two quarters, why were there not more passes completed to Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, the other tight ends and the ever-dangerous Ryan Mathews? If Denver figured out at halftime how to handle the blitz, why did San Diego not go to zone coverages and make Manning throw underneath, hold the football or throw it away?
The Chargers got the benefit of a number of missed calls by erratic referee Jeff Triplett and his crew. Numerous holding calls against struggling tackles Mike Harris and Jeromey Clary were missed otherwise it might have been worse.
In my heart, without Peyton Manning, Denver is probably Jacksonville, a woeful team. He makes that much of a difference. Sadly, with a mistake prone Philip Rivers, San Diego has become the Buffalo Bills, waiting around to get torched or turn it over.
You do remember the franchise that was 14-2 a couple of years back, the one that fired Marty Schottenheimer, and gave you Norv Turner?
Do you know, since the last time they were in the playoffs, this team is now just 21-20 and has just one playoff win in their last four years?
Peyton Manning’s comeback victory may even put in jeopardy now a playoff hope for San Diego.
“D.” Pick any adjective or adverb. Disturbing, dreadful, disgusting. Add this to the list: a franchise in decline too with this defeat.