YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Chargers' defense lets Orton stay standing, lose to Denver 34-23

San Diego only sacked the Bronco quarterback once, helping his team cruise to a win and stay undefeated. Chargers fall to 2-3 for the third time in Coach Norv Turner's tenure.

October 20, 2009|Sam Farmer

SAN DIEGO — In a pivotal game against the undefeated Denver Broncos, San Diego's defense did a spectacular job of pressuring the quarterback Monday.

So did the Chargers' special teams.

That quarterback, you see, was San Diego's Philip Rivers, who couldn't keep bringing his team back against an opponent that kept its own quarterback, Kyle Orton, upright and largely untouched.

Orton was able to move the ball when he needed to, and -- with the help of two touchdowns by returner Eddie Royal -- the Broncos cruised to a 34-23 victory that confirmed their superiority in the AFC West and probably beyond.

Denver (6-0) joins New Orleans (5-0), Minnesota (6-0) and Indianapolis (5-0) among the NFL's remaining undefeated teams.

Rivers, for one, isn't waiting for the Broncos to unravel the way last year's team did, blowing a four-game lead to the Chargers with four to play.

"That team right there is a different Denver team in the sense of they aren't going to fall apart," he said. "That's a team that's there to stay, as far as they're going to bring it every week. So we've got to worry about us."

And there's plenty for the Chargers to worry about in that department. Just six weeks into the season and they're already trailing the division leaders by 3 1/2 games and are 2-3 for the third time in Coach Norv Turner's three seasons.

Rivers was sacked five times, three times on third down, whereas the Chargers got to Orton just once. The Broncos converted nine of 16 third downs, while the Chargers converted only two of 11.

It wasn't as if San Diego couldn't move the ball.

The home team had 12 plays of 16 yards or longer and had leads of 3-0, 10-7, 20-17 and 23-17, but was outscored, 17-0, in the final 22 minutes, 57 seconds.

"They came with a blitz on the first play of the game, so they came out bringing it," said Rivers, whose team was 4-0 with him as the starter in Monday night games. "We just got going in the first half. We got in a rhythm in that first half and a little bit of the third quarter. Then we just couldn't get going."

That's when Orton took control, throwing touchdown passes to Tony Scheffler and Brandon Stokley, and taking the crowd out of the game.

To that point, the bulk of Denver's scoring came on special teams, with Royal returning a kickoff 93 yards for one touchdown, and a punt 71 yards for another.

What was an absolute flop of a night for San Diego's special teams was mitigated slightly by a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown by the cartoonishly quick Darren Sproles and three field goals by Nate Kaeding, including a 50-yarder.

Three kick returns for touchdowns ties an NFL single-game record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, matching a mark last achieved Dec. 13, 1998, when Baltimore and Minnesota combined for three kickoff returns for touchdowns.

But losing is losing, and the Chargers once again find themselves in trouble.

Their running game was decent yet nowhere near what it should be -- LaDainian Tomlinson gained 70 yards in 18 carries, but the Chargers were stonewalled at the goal line -- and the high-priced defense did little to dirty the uniforms of Orton, or pass catchers Brandon Marshall and Scheffler, who each had six receptions.


Los Angeles Times Articles