With their upset of Denver, Philip Rivers and the Chargers stayed in the thick of the playoff chase.
Home sweet home? At 7-7 and a half-game back in the race for the final AFC wild-card spot, the Chargers play their final two games at home against AFC West rivals Oakland and Kansas City. San Diego likely will be favored in both games, with a reasonable chance to finish the regular season 9-7. Winning out doesn’t guarantee the Chargers a playoff berth, but the teams in front of them face tough remaining schedules. Baltimore (7-6) faces the Lions in Detroit on Sunday, hosts New England and finishes at Cincinnati. Miami (7-6) plays host to the Patriots on Sunday, travels to Buffalo the following week, and finishes at home against the New York Jets. Though the Chargers have an easier remaining schedule, they haven’t exactly been dominant at home of late, going 3-3 this season, and are 11-11 at Qualcomm Stadium since 2011.
Keiser rolls: He called it the biggest play of his professional career. With San Diego clinging to a 24-17 lead and Peyton Manning driving the Broncos toward a potential score, outside linebacker Thomas Keiser dropped back into coverage and picked off his first pass of the season at Denver's 33-yard line. Manning was pressured by Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget, causing a short throw. The turnover led to a 35-yard field goal by Nick Novak with 2:41 left, giving the Chargers some breathing room. “This was really important, not only for us winning the game, but keeping our season alive,” Keiser said about the play.
Chargers dominate field position: San Diego’s win really amounted to scoring touchdowns when it needed to, and controlling field position. Consider this: The average start of Denver’s drives was its 19-yard line. San Diego’s average starting drive began on its 34. Chargers punter Mike Scifres pinned Denver inside the 20-yard line three times. After the Broncos took a 10-3 lead with 1:22 left in the opening quarter, the Chargers held the ball for 24:48 of the next 30 minutes, running 44 plays to Denver’s 13.
No explosive plays: The Chargers gave up five passing plays of 18 yards or more against Denver in the first meeting, including a 74-yard touchdown reception by tight end Julius Thomas. But on Thursday, Denver’s longest play from scrimmage was 22 yards, as San Diego’s secondary did a good job of keeping running backs and receivers in front of them and limiting big gains. “We’ve really stressed the way we play in the back end,” San Diego safety Eric Weddle said. “If we play together, communicate and get lined up, we can play with anyone.”