S.D. doesn't horse around
Charger attack buries Broncos
DENVER - The San Diego Chargers figured the formula for turning their season around included holding onto the ball and getting a tide-turning takeaway on special teams.
They did all that and much more yesterday in handing the Denver Broncos their worst home loss since 1966 with a 41-3 drubbing fueled by reigning MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and his trusty backup, Michael Turner.
Tomlinson amassed 140 yards, including 73 on three receptions, and Turner added 147 yards on 10 carries, highlighted by a 74-yard touchdown trot along the Broncos' bewildered sideline in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Philip Rivers even got into the act with the first rushing touchdown of his career. His 2-yard run on a naked bootleg was followed 11 seconds later by San Diego's second score.
Brian Clark, re-signed last week after the Broncos gave up on kick returner Domenik Hixon, failed to follow his blockers and fumbled on a hard hit by Carlos Polk following Rivers's TD. Brandon Siler snared the ball in the air and sprinted to the end zone, punching it past the left pylon for a quick 14-0 lead.
"It was big," Tomlinson said. "It definitely gained some confidence and momentum for us. Something we definitely needed. We had talked about it last night, possibly hoping to get a turnover on special teams. But we did better than that; we got a touchdown.
"So that got us off on a good start. I think they never recovered."
Chargers coach Norv Turner, heavily criticized during his 1-3 start with basically the same team that went 14-2 under Marty Schottenheimer last season, said Tomlinson's 36-yard gain on a screen pass after two rushes netted minus-2 yards on the Chargers' first drive loosened up his tight team, as did Rivers's TD run.
"Then, the big hit on the kickoff return, we score bang-bang. You can feel our guys' confidence come back," Turner said. "We have more work to do, but we made progress."
And the Broncos (2-3), losers of three straight, slipped further into a funk that threatens to spoil their season. The fans braved the cold and windy weather at Invesco Field, but could not deal with Denver's dismal defense, emptying out before the fourth quarter had begun.
One week after committing four turnovers, the Chargers (2-3) had none in ending their three-game skid by winning consecutive games in Denver for the first time since 1967-68.
They handed the Broncos their worst home loss since the Kansas City Chiefs' 56-10 thumping on Oct. 23, 1966.
"I don't know if I've ever been more embarrassed," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "I don't think our players have ever been more embarrassed to put on that type of show."
It was just the third time in Shanahan's 13 seasons in Denver that the Broncos failed to score a touchdown.
Rivers, who had nine turnovers coming in, played keepaway, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-18 passing for a nearly perfect quarterback rating of 151.4.
The Chargers amassed 484 yards of offense and limited Denver to just one field goal on 11 drives.
"Whatever the Chargers did, it worked. Whatever we did, didn't," Dre' Bly said. "I've never been a part of something like this where everything we did went against us, and not for us. They ran the ball, threw the ball, played defense, they played special teams. They won all four phases. We didn't win any."
Broncos troubled tailback Travis Henry, the NFL's leading rusher whose future is in legal limbo while he fights the league over a drug test result, gained 65 yards on 16 carries despite right knee and ankle injuries.
Nate Kaeding's 26-yard field goal made it 17-0 one play after Broncos perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey strained his left quadriceps while covering tight end Antonio Gates.
"I don't feel good," said Bailey, who was clearly concerned he might miss some time, as was Shanahan.
The bye might come at a good time for Denver - quarterback Jay Cutler didn't have his top receiver, Javon Walker (knee), who missed his second straight game, and he lost receiver Brandon Stokley (head) and tight end Nate Jackson (groin) to injuries.
The Chargers led, 20-3, at the half. Gates, who caught seven passes for 113 yards, made it 27-3 with a 9-yard catch.
Vincent Jackson, who gained 45 yards on a pass on second and 33 in the drive, added a 15-yard TD grab that sent the chilled crowds to the exits.
"I don't blame them at all," Stokley said. "I wouldn't have stayed around to watch that."
Brandon Marshall wasn't so kind.
"Don't boo us when we're down," he pleaded. "That's bandwagon . . . I love you all to death, but at the same time, that's not first class."