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San Diego hopes to salvage season against Denver

The Chargers will have a challenge Monday night when they take on the 5-0 Broncos, who have the AFC's top-ranked defense and can take a 31/2-game lead over San Diego with a victory.

October 19, 2009|Sam Farmer

SAN DIEGO — Kyle Orton took off the glove last week and had his best game as quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

Tonight, the San Diego Chargers hope to take off the gloves and save their season.

Orton's glove is real, worn to protect a cut on his index figure. Playing without it last Sunday, he threw for 330 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-17 overtime victory against New England.

The Chargers' gloves are figurative, whatever it's been that has held them back in their lackluster 2-2 start, one that prompted even General Manager A.J. Smith to call the team "soft."

"This isn't the start I wanted," said Chargers Coach Norv Turner, whose team surrendered 497 yards of offense in a 38-28 loss at Pittsburgh two weeks ago. San Diego was off last Sunday. "We're coming off a game we gave up 500 yards and we weren't able to run the football. But it's one football game."

This is a much different Denver team than the one that lost here last December, 52-21, surrendering the AFC West crown after building a seemingly insurmountable division lead.

These Broncos are 5-0, and can take a 3 1/2 -game lead over the Chargers with a victory.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Chargers is how poorly they have run the ball despite two highly regarded backs -- LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles -- who are costing a total of $12 million this season.

The Chargers, who during the Marty Schottenheimer era were often accused of leaning too heavily on the run, now have the 32nd-ranked ground attack, averaging 53.8 yards rushing per game. What's more, Tomlinson (who sat out two weeks because of an ankle injury) and Sproles have combined for just 160 yards on the ground.

Moving the ball tonight won't be easy, not against the AFC's top-ranked defense, one that has allowed a league-best 8.6 points per game.

San Diego's most effective and consistent offensive weapon is quarterback Philip Rivers, who has averaged 311.2 yards passing per game, second to Peyton Manning's 329.0.

Rivers is 4-0 with an average passer rating of 106.9 in Monday games. He also understands what kind of challenge the Chargers are facing tonight.

Denver's defense is so good, the team has gone three weeks without allowing a third-down conversion in the second half.

"They're just playing with an attitude and a fire, a relentlessness," Rivers told reporters of the Broncos. "When they get it going, you see them get it going. I think more than anything they have that attitude, that they're going to play well, they're going to keep you out of the end zone."

For a fourth consecutive game, the Chargers are playing a top-10 defense. The first three were Baltimore, Miami and the Steelers.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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