KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In case you missed it, during the bye week I issued my list of Jamaal Charles’ best five games for the Kansas City Chiefs. I didn’t go with the best statistical games necessarily, though naturally some of them are going to be on the list. The only requirement I had was that the Chiefs had to win the game for it to make the list. I wasn’t going to list a game that the Chiefs lost.

Now, after Charles broke Priest Holmes’ record for career rushing yardage for the Chiefs, I have to add this game to my list in the No. 5 spot. The Chiefs beat the Chargers 23-20 on Sunday in San Diego and the play on which Charles broke the record really captured the essence of the kind of player Charles is.

Charles
Charles didn’t have a lot of blocking help on the play. He took the ball around right end, cut back to the middle of the field and from there weaved his way through defenders for 16 yards. He took a helmet to helmet hit at the end of the play from a former teammate, Brandon Flowers, but popped right up. That the play went for a touchdown made it even sweeter.

One more thing about Charles and his record: Most of his yards have come honestly. He didn’t pile up a lot of big numbers after the Chiefs were hopelessly behind or far ahead but when his team needed them.

In 2009, when Charles set the Chiefs’ all-time single-game record for rushing yardage, he had the chance to break the league record. But the Chiefs had a healthy lead in the fourth quarter and Charles wasn’t interested in getting the record that way. He asked to be removed from the game and the Chiefs complied.

That’s another reason why Charles, franchise record or not, is the best runner the Chiefs have ever had.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The numbers speak for themselves and they’re essentially shouting at everyone at the moment.

Shouting that Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller leads the NFL with eight sacks while defensive end DeMarcus Ware is among four players tied for second in the league with seven sacks. Miller’s eight sacks put him ahead of six of the league’s teams and those 15 sacks between the Broncos’ two marquee pass-rushers put the pair ahead of 14 teams.

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AP Photo/Jack DempseyDeMarcus Ware's ability to get to the quarterback has benefited the Broncos this season.
The Broncos’ 21 sacks also tie them for third in the league though they've played one fewer game than the other four teams with at least 21. But if sacks had assists, Miller and Ware know who would get them. Because while the glamour guys collect the highlights along the way, it takes a defensive village to raise a sack.

"And those guys in the middle, they make it go," Miller said. "It’s like I’ve said, they’re unselfish, they just get to work."

In the end, it’s simple math, really -- the smaller the pocket for the quarterback to move around in, the bigger the chance Miller or Ware will finish a play with a sack.

They are the UTR Club perhaps, an under the radar football thing they all understand. And Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams, Marvin Austin Jr., Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson have done the roll-up-the-sleeves work on the interior that, both Miller and Ware say, has allowed the Broncos’ edge rushers to have exactly the kind of impact the team had hoped.

Knighton, in particular, has caught the eye of personnel executives around the league as one of the most disruptive players in the Broncos' defense, even in the mass of humanity along the line of scrimmage.

"We wouldn’t be able to have success that we’re having right now without Malik and Derek Wolfe and Marvin and all those guys," Miller said. " … It’s like in basketball when you’ve got Kobe and Shaq. Those guys really make it go and I’m not trying to be funny about it, but those guys -- if it wasn’t for what Malik and Derek do -- we wouldn’t be able to do what we do on the outside. … They’re very unselfish."

This all was part of the offseason plan. In a defensive overhaul where plenty of attention in free agency and the draft went to the secondary, the Broncos’ decision-makers hoped recovery from injuries would give them back the defensive front they wanted.

Wolfe had spent the back half of the 2013 season on injured reserve after suffering seizure-like symptoms as the Broncos prepared to go on a road trip. Miller had suffered a torn ACL in a December game against the Houston Texans and Ware was a player the Dallas Cowboys were prepared to cut loose because, "They felt like they had a decision to make and maybe I wasn’t the player I was."

The Broncos gladly dove in with a three-year, $30 million contract for Ware with the idea that a fresh start would be what was needed after he finished with six sacks in 2013. It’s what defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had been talking about for much of the offseason when he said that beyond the injuries that sent five defensive starters to injured reserve by the time the Broncos played in Super Bowl XLVIII, the fact the team wasn’t able to replace Elvis Dumervil’s impact last season impacted what the defense could do the most.

With Dumervil and Miller together in ’12, the two combined for 29.5 sacks as the Broncos tied for the league lead with 52 and the Broncos allowed just five rushing touchdowns.

"I think it all goes together," Knighton said. "When we get the good push in there, don’t give quarterbacks room to move up and throw, with DeMarcus and Von coming from the outside, that’s what we want. Hopefully I get a sack or two with all that, but if they get a sack, if we see them with the quarterback, we know we did our job, too. Sacks make everybody feel good."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball returned -- briefly -- to the practice field Tuesday, but the Broncos had enough concerns about their overall depth at running back to tweak the roster.

Ball
Ball, who suffered a right groin injury in the Broncos’ Oct. 5 win over the Arizona Cardinals, was in a jersey and on the practice field during the open period of practice for the first time since the injury. Ball went through the pre-practice stretching with the team and then went to work with the strength and conditioning coaches.

The Broncos have planned for Ball to miss at least three weeks with the injury -- and Thursday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers will be the third game Ball has missed -- so they promoted running back Kapri Bibbs from their practice squad, even as some teams in the league had started to circle the undrafted rookie with interest in signing him.

“I think he’s a guy that we liked," Broncos head coach John Fox said of Bibbs following Tuesday’s practice. “... Right now, until Montee starts moving along, getting well, (Bibbs) is really our fourth back, so we felt the need to do that and did so."

The Broncos also held kicker Brandon McManus (groin), defensive back Omar Bolden (concussion) and linebacker Steven Johnson (ankle) out of Tuesday’s practice. Bolden and Johnson are not expected to play Thursday night.

McManus has been limited in at least one practice in recent weeks but has not missed any game action because of the injury. Fox said he expected that to be the case this week as well.

“See what tomorrow brings. ... I’m sure he’ll be good to go," Fox said.

In an abbreviated practice week, the Broncos did not wear helmets in Tuesday’s work, with the players in jerseys and shorts for the early-afternoon workout.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – With the kind of speed that would make any overnight delivery service proud, the football Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw to Demaryius Thomas on Sunday night for Manning’s 509th career touchdown pass is on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Eric Lars Bakke/Denver BroncosPeyton Manning poses with Demaryius Thomas, who caught his record-breaking 509th TD pass, and Hall of Fame rep Joe Horrigan, who raced to put the ball on display in Canton, Ohio.
The ball, along with a handwritten sign on a sheet of three-ring binder paper with “509’’ in black ink on it, to go with three photos, sits comfortably in a case inside an exhibit entitled “Pro Football Today.’’

Asked as he prepared to leave Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday night, Joe Horrigan, the Hall’s long-time vice president of communications/exhibits, said his plan was “to display it as soon as we possibly can.’’

Horrigan secured the record-breaking football from the Broncos’ equipment staff following the game -- Manning had posed for a few photos with it, including a photo with Thomas, inside the Broncos locker room -- and returned to Canton, Ohio, on Monday morning, football packed in his luggage. The football and the sign were brought to the Hall after hours on Monday night and put on display on Tuesday morning.

Horrigan said Manning has provided “several items’’ that are on display in the Hall, including a uniform from the 2013 season when Manning won his record fifth MVP award and threw for a single-season record 55 touchdowns.

The Film Don't Lie: Chargers

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the San Diego Chargers must fix:

Solving the team’s poor tackling will be an issue the San Diego Chargers have to resolve sooner rather than later since they face an explosive Denver Broncos offense on Thursday night.

The Chargers allowed the Chiefs to rush for 154 total yards in a 23-20 loss over the weekend. Kansas City finished with eight plays of 16-plus yards from scrimmage.

“We had too many missed tackles,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “That’s something we work on every week. It’s a basic fundamental of the game. And we gave up too many yards where we should have stopped them, and they made some plays.”

For the most part, San Diego has been a good tackling team leading up to the Kansas City game, limiting big gains. The Chargers have to solve the team’s tackling issues quickly because they face a Denver offense averaging 8.52 yards per play in the passing game, No. 2 in the NFL behind San Diego (8.53).

In order to fix the poor tackling, San Diego’s defense has to do a better job of playing with leverage and playing "to your help" on the field, according to defensive co-captain and linebacker Jarret Johnson.

“The reason we missed tackles was them creating plays that put us in space, and us not playing to our leverage,” Johnson said. “You don’t know where your leverage is, and you might be overrunning it or taking bad angles on your tackles.

“We have to be more aware of where our help is. These running backs -- especially a running back like Jamaal Charles -- it’s going to be really tough to get him down in the open field by yourself, so you have to play to your help.”

The Film Don’t Lie: Raiders

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the Oakland Raiders must fix:

The Raiders are headed to Cleveland next Sunday a broken team. At 0-6, they are the NFL’s only winless squad look incapable of winning a game. The Raiders are getting outplayed and outproduced, and Oakland is contributing to its losing cause, as well.

Among its many mistakes against Arizona was undisciplined play. Oakland was called for eight penalties for 74 yards. Half of those penalties resulted in first downs for Arizona, and Oakland was called for penalties on two of the Cardinals' three touchdown drives.

The problem for Oakland is the penalties are increasing as the season goes on. The Raiders were traditionally one of the most penalized teams, if not the most penalized team, in the league. Under Dennis Allen, who took over in 2012 and was fired after Week 4 this season, the Raiders had cleaned it up.

But they have been penalized a total of 19 times in the past two games under interim coach Tony Sparano. Oakland was penalized just 15 times in the first three games. It was penalized nine times in Allen’s last game.

Sparano often preaches that Oakland has to stop beating Oakland. Lots of those penalties are just mental lapses. Sparano is working hard to stop it in all phases. There have been dividends paid in some areas, but getting his team to play smart, controlled football at the line of scrimmage has to be a focus of Sparano and his staff.

This team has enough problems. Hurting itself with penalties is only multiplying the issues.

The Film Don't Lie: Chiefs

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the Chiefs must fix:

Just as they do every week, the Kansas City Chiefs will need a big game from Dwayne Bowe on Sunday when they play against the St. Louis Rams. Bowe is their best wide receiver and the Chiefs received a grisly look at what their passing game looks like without him in their season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Chiefs need to make Bowe more of a priority in their passing game. They did that in their win against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, when Bowe was their leading targeted receiver for the first time this season. Alex Smith threw seven passes in Bowe's direction.

Though Bowe dropped a third-down pass that could have been costly, he was the Chiefs' leading receiver with five catches for 84 yards and had a 19-yard gain on the game-winning field goal drive.

But the Chiefs can do more with Bowe. What he does best is run after the catch. He's big, runs strong and is hard to tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, 32 of his yards against the Chargers came after the catch.

So the Chiefs should get the ball more to Bowe in the open field. They threw a lot of bubble screens to Bowe earlier in his career to get him going that way but have mostly abandoned that.

They should get back to that against the Rams and beyond.

The Film Don't Lie: Broncos

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Denver Broncos must fix:

A lot of what the Broncos had on the drawing board this past offseason has come to pass over their first six games: The defense is more athletic, the pass rush is disruptive and quarterback Peyton Manning directs an offense that can stress an opposing defense all over the field.

But the Broncos' offensive line? The group is still trying to figure things out. With San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano next on the docket, the Broncos will need the line to settle in to deal with the aggressive, unpredictable looks the Chargers can offer.

The Broncos made a change this past Sunday with Paul Cornick moving to right tackle in place of Chris Clark. Coach John Fox said “things hadn’t gone real good’’ before the change. Manning has routinely muted pass-rush plans with his ability to locate the extra rushers in the formation before the snap and deliver the ball quickly. But the fact remains the Broncos, low sack numbers or not, have not handled how defenses have chosen to attack them.

The Broncos have struggled up front at times with stunts from opposing defensive linemen or rushers coming from off the ball, off the line of scrimmage and too often rushers have simply come free. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks tackled running back Ronnie Hillman for a 3-yard loss this past Sunday after Brooks was unblocked in a formation with the three tight ends and one extra tackle -- and that was after the Jets had sacked Manning twice with a three-man rush a week ago

Pagano will try to create some indecision as the Chargers have 12 players with at least one sack this season, especially through the middle of the formation where opponents have consistently attacked the gaps between center Manny Ramirez and guards Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Coach Andy Reid shared some interesting thoughts in a guest appearance on ESPN’s "Mike and Mike" Monday on how the 3-3 Kansas City Chiefs have developed this season. Reid suggested the Chiefs’ difficult schedule was responsible for their rapid development.

“We’ve had a great schedule,’’ Reid said. “We’ve got to play some really good football teams. We’ve got the Rams coming up. They had a huge win yesterday. Jeff [Fisher] has that group rolling there. You love that challenge.

“We welcome that. We’ve had that up to this point. We’ve come out on top on a couple of them and we’ve had our tail kicked in a couple of them but we’re battling and learning and finding out about ourselves and we’re getting better as we go.’’

The Chiefs have had the most difficult schedule of any AFC team so far this season. Their six opponents have a cumulative winning percentage of 62, highest in the conference.

That changes beginning with next Sunday’s game against 2-4 St. Louis at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs’ 10 remaining opponents have a collective winning percentage of 45, lowest in the AFC.

The Chiefs could be in position to gain some ground on their AFC West rivals over the final two months of the season.

This situation is the opposite of last year, when the Chiefs won their first nine games against one of the NFL’s easiest schedules. But the Chiefs had things so easy that maybe their early schedule dumbed them down. Once they got into the difficult portion of their schedule, they lost six of eight, including the playoffs.

So maybe there’s something to be said for Reid’s theory.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Random thoughts after the Oakland Raiders' 24-13 home loss to Arizona that dropped the Raiders to 0-6:
    Woodson
  • The Raiders’ biggest problem (and there’s many) is their third-down defense. It has been dreadful. The Raiders entered their loss to Arizona allowing a league-high 51.4 percent conversion rate on third down. Arizona converted on third down 9 of 15 times, including twice on third-and-8 on a game-sealing drive in the fourth quarter. The Raiders are at a loss over the issues.

    “Killing us. It's killing us,” Oakland safety Charles Woodson said. “We're for the most part able to play good football on the early downs but for whatever reason, man, third downs, I don't know if there's a lack of focus or what it is on third downs but it is definitely our Achilles heel right now.”

    Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said getting better in the area will, once again, be a primary focus of practice this week as the Raiders prepare to play at Cleveland next Sunday. The issue has an affect on the entire team. The Raiders held the ball for just 23:03 on Sunday. They entered the game with a league-low time of possession average of 25:04.
  • Sparano said backup quarterback Matt Schaub will remain the holder. He took over for punter Marquette King against Arizona. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 53-yard field goal last week. Sunday, with Schaub, Janikowski had field goals of 29 and 53 yards.
  • The Raiders’ run game floundered again Sunday after having its first success of the season against San Diego last week. The Raiders had 56 yards on the ground in 19 carries in the loss to Arizona. After gaining 80 yards against the Chargers -- his best game in over a calendar year -- Oakland starter Darren McFadden had 48 yards on 14 carries on Sunday. Maurice Jones-Drew, the Week 1 starter, has been unable to do much. He had 6 yards on three carries.
  • Tight end Mychal Rivera again was not a focal point in the offense. He had one catch on his only target. He had 38 catches as a rookie last season. He has 13 catches in six games.
  • Kenbrell Thompkins, in his second game since being claimed off waivers from New England, played some for Oakland. He was targeted once but didn’t have a catch.
  • The Raiders used the Wildcat once and McFadden gained 12 yards. They have used it for four plays this season. The Dolphins used the Wildcat as a focal point when Sparano was their head coach.
  • The Raiders had three three-and-out series Sunday and have 23 such drives in six games.
  • Recent defensive additions, linebackers Ray-Ray Armstrong and Jamar Chaney, both played some on defense Sunday. Armstrong was primarily a special-teamer before being cut by St. Louis.
  • Chimdi Chekwa seemed to fall behind Neiko Thorpe on the cornerback rotation. When D.J. Hayden is activated (perhaps this week), Chekwa could be in danger of being inactivated.
  • Benson Mayowa, claimed off waivers from Seattle in September, played some at defensive end Sunday and was active. I’d expect to see more of him moving forward.
  • Free-agent addition LaMarr Woodley continued to be a non-factor. The defensive end was credited with one tackle.
  • Receiver Brice Butler had a big catch for the second straight game -- a 55-yard reception that set up Oakland’s only touchdown. Butler had a 47-yard touchdown catch last week. Butler will likely continue to get more opportunities.

SAN DIEGO -- Jamaal Charles emerged from the Kansas City Chiefs' victorious locker room wearing a bow tie. It was a new look for Charles, but it was that kind of occasion.

The Chiefs had just beaten the San Diego Chargers 23-20, the first Kansas City win at Qualcomm Stadium in Charles' seven-year NFL career.

Charles also broke the Chiefs' career record for rushing yardage. He had 95 yards, giving him 6,113 for his career. Priest Holmes, who had 6,070 yards, held the old record.

"Everybody was talking about it but I wasn't even worried about the record," Charles said. "I just wanted to go out there and play football."

It was fitting that Charles broke the record on his second-quarter touchdown run. The 16-yard play was more the brilliant work of Charles, who weaved through the San Diego defense, than great work on the part of his blockers.

That's something that coach Andy Reid alluded to in his postgame remarks.

"Jamaal does it play after play," Reid said. "He makes things happen."

Charles had to survive a vicious helmet to helmet hit at the end of the play from a former teammate, Brandon Flowers, on the play. Charles survived the collision. Flowers received a concussion and was soon done for the game.

"It could have happened on another moment but it happened on a special moment," Charles said. "I wanted it. It was the will of me getting into the end zone. Nothing was going to stop me from getting into the end zone."

Charles acknowledged to being relieved at having the record. That's not because it was that important but because he won't have to answer questions about it anymore.

He also has bigger, if probably unobtainable, goals in mind.

"Now that it's over with, I can just go out and think about other records to break," he said. "It's great to be the leading rusher for an organization but you've got guys like Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith with 20,000 yards. That's something I wish to get to someday."

Charles is 77th on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Smith is the leader with 18,355 yards.
SAN DIEGO -- Rookie kicker Cairo Santos didn’t just vindicate himself by making a 48-yard field goal in the final seconds to lift the Kansas City Chiefs to a 23-20 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

He also rewarded the Chiefs for their belief in him. The Chiefs decision to keep Santos, who was undrafted, instead of veteran Ryan Succop looked like a mistake early in the season. Santos missed two of his first four field goal attempts while Succop, now with the Tennessee Titans, made all four of his in his new team’s season-opening win over the Chiefs.

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AP Photo/Denis PoroyAfter a rough start to his rookie season, Cairo Santos (5) has now made six straight field goal attempts.
But general manager John Dorsey never wavered.

"What he was in college was a model of consistency," Dorsey said. "He set the NCAA record for consecutive field goals. He’s always been mentally tough. You go back and study the kickers. All the great ones started slow in their careers.

"He’s young. He had to grow and that’s what he’s doing. This kick showed it."

Santos’ streak of 26 successful field goals while in college at Tulane is actually the second-longest in NCAA history but that’s a minor point. The bigger picture is that Santos, who made all three of his field goal tries on Sunday, is on a roll. He has made six straight field goal attempts.

He also succeeded where Succop failed last year, in the final moments of a game at Qualcomm Stadium. Succop missed a 41-yard field goal attempt that would have broken a tie. Instead, that game went to overtime and the Chiefs lost.

That bit of history wasn’t lost on Santos. He said he watched that game last season on TV.

"I had a couple of (successful) kicks in a row now to build my confidence," he said when asked how he avoided the same San Diego fate as Succop. "This is how I’ve been kicking in training camp and the preseason."

The Chiefs' unwavering belief in Santos may have pulled him through his slump. As Dorsey indicated, it’s not uncommon for established kickers to have a similar rough patch at some point early in their careers.

San Diego’s Nick Novak once kicked for the Chiefs, who cut him after a prolonged slump. He’s now made a franchise-record 31 straight field goals.

"The coaches and my teammates helped me a lot, telling me that I belong and that’s why I’m here," Santos said. "Kickers go through those kind of hiccups.

"When I was going through the struggles, I got calls from guys like Robbie Gould. He was kind enough to give me a call out of nowhere and just shared he started his rookie season 3-for-6 and ended up having an OK year and look at the career he’s had. Kickers go through that."
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DENVER -- Little more than two years ago, John Elway and other members of the Denver Broncos' football hierarchy went to Duke University to watch Peyton Manning throw. It was post spinal-fusion surgery, post-missed 2011 season.

Elway said they saw enough that day to take the plunge and make their best pitch to Manning, that there was "no Plan B." And now it is simply the league's greatest-ever free-agent signing, the game-changer of game-changers.

So when Manning threw his record 509th career touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in a 42-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, there was a rather startling thought that came with it. Manning has started all of 38 regular-season games for the Broncos. Thirty-eight.

And in those 38 games he has gone from a quarterback simply hoping to compete at the level he had always known in his pre-spinal fusion football life, to a quarterback who may have found another plane beyond it. A place he has carved out with a surgically repaired neck, a glove on his right hand and never-before-seen performance from a quarterback who has passed his 38th birthday.

Manning threw his 507th, 508th, 509th and 510th career touchdown passes as the Broncos moved to 5-1 flaunting plenty of playoff power on both sides of the ball. He opened the 2013 campaign with seven touchdown passes against the Baltimore Ravens, tying him for the NFL's single-game mark. And by the time the regular season was over Manning had thrown 55 touchdown passes, also an NFL record.

"You kind of just know you're part of something big," said Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme, who has been Manning's teammate in both Indianapolis and Denver. "You know someday you're going to reflect on it, think about it, but in the moment he wants to win games and we want to win games. But someday, yes, it's going to be a good story."

Manning now has the touchdown trifecta all to himself -- game, season and career. All records, pushed into new ground in his 38 games with the Broncos. There's plenty more where that came from because Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback, has created the perfect storm of points, personnel and plan, all with Manning at the wheel, finishing off whatever play offensive coordinator Adam Gase can think up.

As Manning was poised to rewrite another chapter of the NFL record book, linebacker Von Miller felt the moment closing in.

"I wasn't really paying attention, I don't get to see him really, we're looking at our sheets, talking about what we're going to do on the next play, things like that," Miller said. "But we were looking at our stuff, and all of a sudden it was like a concert, all the phones were up all over the stadium, you could feel it. We knew it was going to happen. And you had to watch."

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said: "Oh yeah, you see all the phones come out like that, you knew we were going to throw the ball … and that's one of those plays people will ask you about when you're old. To us that's Peyton Manning, he does something people want to remember every time he throws the ball."

Where it all goes from here is still an unknown of sorts, but the ride, for those lucky enough to be on it, will be one to remember.

"I can't put a number to it, but the way he is playing I feel like he can just go out and average three, four, five touchdowns a game," Thomas said. "Hopefully, because that's good, it's good for the offense, good for the team."

Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders added: "He's addicted to football and so is this offense. … We know we've got a special group and we like to score points."
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SAN DIEGO -- In the ebb and flow of an NFL season, the San Diego Chargers just ran out of enough healthy bodies against their more rested AFC West rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs.

By the time the officials blew the final whistle on San Diego's first loss in six games, a 23-20 setback on Sunday, the Chargers walked off the field without the team's top two cornerbacks in Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett, and three energetic, playmaking linebackers in Manti Te'o, Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Ingram.

The Chargers finally succumbed to the battle of attrition, and now have only four days to get ready to face the class of the AFC West, the Denver Broncos, on Thursday.

Verrett was inactive for a second game this season, this time because of lingering issues with his surgically repaired shoulder. Flowers suffered a concussion on a big-time collision with former Kansas City teammate Jamaal Charles.

Flowers surprisingly returned to the field for a few plays, but later went to the locker room for further evaluation and did not return.

Te'o (foot), Attaochu (hamstring) and Melvin Ingram (hip) all bring energy to San Diego's second level of the defense. But without them, the Chargers had to rely more on special teams core players such as linebacker Kavell Conner, Reggie Walker and Andrew Gachkar.

The cumulative effect playing without those players was the Chiefs held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and kept it away from San Diego's most precious asset -- quarterback Philip Rivers.

On offense, the Chargers are on their fourth starting running back. They've cycled through four different players at center.

San Diego (5-2) is one of a handful of teams that legitimately can say it can compete for a Super Bowl. But in order to challenge for the AFC West crown and make another deep playoff run, San Diego has to get its young core players back on the field and healthy.

"It's been a tough year with injuries," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "We've had a lot of guys go down. And it's been pretty amazing to see the type of resilience from the guys that are stepping in.

"Guys are playing different positions. Reggie Walker has played every position in the linebacker room, plus rushed. And there's a ton of situations like that. So the fact that we've had injuries, and continue to have injuries, this team has showed it can weather the storm.

"And with a quarterback like ours, you're always going to have a chance."

But in order for Rivers to perform his wizardry, he has to have the ball. And the Chargers did not have enough possessions against Kansas City.

Rivers, of course, blames himself. The Chargers converted just 3 of 10 third downs and only ran three plays in the third quarter.

"Obviously, our defense was out there tired and fighting like crazy," Rivers said. "And I know they wanted to get off the field in that third quarter, but we've got to help them out."

The Chargers now turn their attention to the Broncos in an important divisional matchup. Last season, San Diego won in Denver on Thursday night, and held the Broncos' potent offense to an average of 24 points in three games. Although battered, the Chargers will be confident heading into Denver.

"It would be nice to be able to have two-and-a-half weeks with all we have going on," Rivers said. "But, mentally, it will be good for us, because we can't sulk and feel sorry about this game.

"And we really shouldn't. … We know what this thing is. This is a 16-week deal you sign up for. And we're here through seven of them, and we're in an OK spot. We've just got to keep going."
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Injured Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett had a truth-hurts message to Oakland Raiders fans when he scribbled "0-6, worst team in football" on a sideline board at the end of another defeat suffered by the home team.

While Dockett doesn't get sportsmanship points, his crude memo is difficult to combat. The Raiders very much look like the NFL's worst club.

The Raiders made numerous critical miscues in the second half of a game that they took themselves out of, a 24-13 home defeat to Arizona on Sunday. Oakland is the NFL's last winless team -- thanks to Jacksonville's victory over Cleveland -- and has lost 12 straight dating back to last November.

Frankly, victory doesn't appear to be lurking around any corner. After playing at Cleveland next Sunday, the Raiders face Seattle, Denver, San Diego and Kansas City, all playoff teams from 2013.

"This is as bad as you're going to get through the first part of the season," veteran Raiders safety Charles Woodson said. "We haven't won a game. How much worse can it get than that, than not winning a game?"

Sunday's game was the second under interim coach Tony Sparano since the firing of coach Dennis Allen. Yes, the Raiders have given effort and they have shown some spark under Sparano, but the bottom line remains the same --- when it's time to make a play, the Raiders have come up short.

Allen called it failing "at the moment of truth." Sparano's flash phrase is "Oakland beating Oakland." Both doses of coach-speak were applicable Sunday.

Though the Raiders pulled within 14-13 in the third quarter, they never truly looked like they were in position to win. The reason? They kept making mistakes. There was a cascade of blunders in the second half on both sides of the ball.

The third quarter ended with three straight incompletions by rookie quarterback Derek Carr after Oakland had a first down at the 50-yard line and trailing 21-13.

On Arizona's first possession of the fourth quarter, which started at its own 13, the Raiders let them off the hook with 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Sio Moore on third down, and then a third-and-9 conversion a few plays later.

On Oakland's next possession, it could only muster five offensive plays. The Cardinals then iced the game on a field goal drive that lasted 6:53 and gave them a 24-13 lead. The Cardinals converted on third-and-8 twice in that series.

Arizona was 9-for-15 on third-down conversions. Oakland came into the game allowing a league-high 51.4 conversion percentage on third down. It was the worst in the NFL. Oakland has a lot of problems, but getting off the field on defense is the biggest. The Raiders held the ball for just 23:03.

"We just have to find a way to win, find a way defensively to get off the field, find a way offensively to keep moving the ball on third down," Oakland cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "When it's crunch time we have to be the ones that make that play and not the other team."

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