- Aug 18, 2005
September 14, 2005
Chargers' next opponent
Denver Broncos (0-1)
1:15 p.m. Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High
In each of the past two seasons the Broncos have finished 10-6, earned a wild-card playoff berth and then been blown out in about four minutes by the Colts. Denver chose to rebuild much of its defense after last season, but the early returns were not promising – a 34-10 loss at Miami. The question now is whether that was a throwout game or a sign of things to come. The answer could be known as soon as Sunday, because this is a critical game: No team that started 0-2 last year made the playoffs and only three of the 36 teams to qualify for the playoffs in the last three years began 0-2.
The defensive line has three new starters, all from a Cleveland team that ranked near the bottom of the league last season. The secondary has two new starters. Against Miami, the Broncos allowed 151 rushing yards and 426 total yards. This week Denver might have to play without star cornerback Champ Bailey, who has a dislocated left shoulder.
Denver has won nine of its last 10 home openers, but its offense also might be without a crucial player – running back Mike Anderson, who has some cartilage separation in his ribs. The Broncos were hapless against the Dolphins, with half of their 14 drives ending with zero or one first down. Quarterback Jake Plummer threw two interceptions and couldn't move the offense.
– JAY POSNER
Three players to watch
Jake Plummer: Even though he set a team record for passing yards and tied the mark for TD passes, Plummer actually regressed during his second season in Denver. His completion percentage dropped and he also threw 20 INTs, including four in the second Broncos-Chargers game. He is 5-2 against the Chargers.
Rod Smith: The 35-year-old veteran has played the Chargers 19 times and caught 99 passes, more than any San Diego opponent in except Tim Brown (133 catches in 32 games). Smith needs 138 yards to reach 10,000 for his career; he trails Keenan McCardell by 24 yards on the NFL's all-time list.
John Lynch: The Torrey Pines High product is 11 days from his 34th birthday but he remains a force. In last year's second Broncos-Chargers game he had eight tackles, a sack and forced two fumbles, including one that would have put Denver in position for a tying field goal, except San Diego recovered.
The Broncos have dominated the series at home (33-11-1), especially since moving to Invesco Field in 2001. In the four games played there, Denver has opened halftime leads of 20-0, 19-0, 27-0 and 13-3 – a combined 79-3.
Did you know?
Sunday's 24-point loss in Miami marked the fifth time a Mike Shanahan-coached Broncos team has lost a regular-season game by at least 20 points. Three of the previous four times it happened, Denver came back and won its next game.
Denver had 12 third-down chances in Miami and converted only one into a first down. Meanwhile, the Broncos defense allowed 8-of-15 chances to succeed.
Did you hear?
"I think about my years as a head coach and my years as a coordinator, I don't think I can remember an offense putting as much pressure on (its own) defense as we did (against Miami). We did not do a very good job on offense." – Broncos coach Mike Shanahan
Two former Chargers, tight end Stephen Alexander (2002-03) and defensive end Marco Coleman (1996-98), are on Denver's active roster, and another, Jimmy Spencer (1998-99), is the assistant defensive backs coach. Tight ends coach Tim Brewster held the same position with the Chargers the last three seasons.
Champ Bailey and Mike Anderson are the only two players with significant injuries. Defensive end Courtney Brown, who missed the opener with a dislocated left elbow, should play.
With the AFC West title on the line at rainy Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers held on for a 20-17 victory last Dec. 5. LaDainian Tomlinson had 30 carries for 113 yards and the Chargers' two TDs, while Donnie Edwards led San Diego's defense with 20 tackles. The Chargers had four interceptions, including Jerry Wilson's end-zone grab of a fourth-quarter pass intended for Rod Smith and deflected by Drayton Florence.