Chargers 13

(1-2, 1-1 away)

Broncos 23

(2-1, 2-0 home)

4:05 PM ET, September 26, 2004


1 2 3 4 T
SD 3 0 7 313
DEN 7 6 7 323

Lelie hauls in fourth-down risk to lift Denver

DENVER (AP) -- The play had little to do with the game plan, much more to do with stuff players figure out in the back yard.

Knowing Ashley Lelie had a couple inches on the guy who was covering him, Jake Plummer threw the fourth-down pass high into the end zone. Lelie reached over the defender and made the catch for a momentum-shifting touchdown that led Denver to a 23-13 victory over San Diego on Sunday.

Allen's Analysis

Eric Allen

Chargers-Broncos: Could Griffin's fumbling problem lead to a change at RB?

The Broncos need Griffin to either start holding on to the ball or get him out of the game. This team isn't good enough to give the ball away. Heck, no team in the NFL is that good! The Broncos' defense is good, but not good enough to have to constantly play at a disadvantage. Griffin has lost three fumbles already this season and his latest one almost gave the Chargers the momentum to win the game. I'm sure, with the way coach Mike Shanahan handles his team, that Griffin will get the message that he needs to hold on to the ball if he wants to hold on to his job.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders. He's a regular contributor to Insider.

"It's not exactly what you draw up on fourth down," Plummer said. "But I just got out of the pocket, I threw it up there and I figured, he's 6-4, long and tall -- let him outjump the other guy."

Lelie, who is really 6-foot-3, did just that, winning the one-on-one showdown with 6-0 cornerback Quentin Jammer for the 33-yard touchdown that gave Denver (2-1) a 10-point lead late in the third quarter.

Just as importantly, it stifled the momentum San Diego (1-2) gained moments earlier when the Chargers recovered Quentin Griffin's third lost fumble of the season and converted it into a touchdown to cut Denver's lead to 13-10.

The San Diego score turned an already slumbering Invesco Field into a library, and it got even quieter when the Broncos stalled at midfield on their next drive.

San Diego's Kassim Osgood roughed the punter, however, and three plays later, Mike Shanahan opted against a field goal and called the play that resulted in Plummer hanging one high into the back, right corner of the end zone. Pinned behind Jammer, Lelie fought him off, caught the ball and landed hard on the ground, his helmet coming off as he hit.

Although replays didn't show it, Jammer thought Lelie pushed him before he made the catch.

"It's hard to make a play on the ball when the guy pushes you in the back," Jammer said. "I was trying to get up and get it, but he made a good play on it. You just have to live with those calls."

Plummer finished with 294 yards and two touchdowns, including a 16-yarder to Rod Smith to open the scoring. Lelie, largely considered a disappointment his first two years in Denver, caught four passes for 67 yards and his first TD since Sept. 28, 2003, a span of 15 games.

"Has it been that long?" Lelie said. "Yeah, it felt good, just because it helped us win."

Speaking of droughts, San Diego fell to 1-9 in Denver since 1995.

LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 60 yards and has yet to break the 100-yard mark in four games at Denver. Drew Brees threw for 121 yards and never got into the flow. In fact, he had more yards receiving (38) than passing (16) at halftime, courtesy of a first-quarter reception from Tomlinson on a trick play that resulted not in a touchdown, but a field goal.

"What you see is a number of missed opportunities that we had that we failed to capitalize on, and the Broncos did," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

While the victory was welcome, it hardly masked all of Denver's problems.

Griffin has now lost fumbles in all three games this season. Last week's -- on a bad exchange with Plummer -- cost Denver the game in a 7-6 loss at Jacksonville. On Sunday, he never appeared to be running with confidence and finished with 7 yards on 12 carries, part of a meager 30-yard rushing total for the Broncos.

Denver also settled for field goals on two trips inside the San Diego 10 -- a major problem in last week's loss, as well -- and failed on two third-and-1 rushing attempts to add to three it couldn't convert last week.

The Chargers, meanwhile, have problems, too. They struggled against Denver's juggled defensive line, missing Trevor Pryce, who is out four to six weeks with a back injury.

The 3-4 defense designed by Wade Phillips, a former head coach of the Broncos, did very little to stop Plummer, who went 25-for-36.

Still, they were in it late.

"Overall, I felt like we had this game," Tomlinson said. "We had our opportunities. It gets harder and harder to swallow."

Schottenheimer knows the feeling well. Besides the loss, the coach got another little gift: At halftime, the Broncos honored Hall of Famer John Elway, who enjoyed a number of his greatest moments -- including The Drive -- against the former coach of the Browns and Chiefs.

Game notes

Shanahan won his 100th game with the Broncos, including regular and postseason. His regular-season record is 101-66, including time with the Raiders. ... Marco Coleman, starting because of Pryce's injury, led Denver with nine tackles. ... Chargers rookie K Nick Kaeding made a 51-yard field goal and improved to 4-for-4 on the season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

Drive info: 6 plays, 72 yds, 3:22
denFG11:25Jason Elam 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 25 yds, 2:30
Drive info: 6 plays, 72 yds, 3:22
denFG7:55Jason Elam 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 23 yds, 3:09
sdTD7:55Drew Brees, 1 yd run
Drive info: 7 plays, 36 yds, 3:22
Drive info: 7 plays, 36 yds, 3:22
sdFG2:31Nate Kaeding 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 11 plays, 70 yds, 5:37
Drive info: 9 plays, 64 yds, 3:38
Drive info: 9 plays, 64 yds, 3:38
sdFG14:10Nate Kaeding 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 10 plays, 41 yds, 4:13
denFG12:35Jason Elam 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 12 plays, 70 yds, 4:37