The Official BLOG of

You are currently NOT on the Homepage
Please send any questions or comments to:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chargers uphold title of AFC West Division Champions!

Sunday, Dec 28, 2008
By Casey Pearce,

Four weeks after most left them for dead, the resilient Chargers won their fourth-straight game and 14th-consecutive game in the month of December to complete an improbable comeback to claim their third-consecutive AFC West title Sunday night.
The Bolts’ emphatic 52-21 victory over the Broncos in front of a record crowd of 69,131 at Qualcomm Stadium allowed Norv Turner’s squad to become the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs after starting a season 4-8.
“This is obviously history, the way we trailed the division and how we’ve now won it,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “We know the expectations we set out with and how high they were at the start of the year. All we’ve done is reopen some of those goal and some of those expectations now that we’ve got ourselves into January.”
The Chargers scored on their first four possessions of the first half and totaled a season-high 491 yards of total offense, forced two turnovers on defense and made a little history as they were able to vindicate a Week 2 loss in Denver and end the Broncos’ season.
Rivers tossed two touchdown passes to finish the season with 34, eclipsing Dan Fouts’ franchise record of 33, which he set in 1981. The Chargers also rushed for 289 yards as a team to set a new franchise record, and LaDainian Tomlinson’s three rushing touchdowns to push his career total to 126. LT entered the night tied with Marcus Allen for second-most in NFL history, and Tomlinson now sits alone in second place.
“Those things are nice individual things that come along with playing the way we played today,” Turner said. “It’s exciting to win the division. It’s exciting to know we’re going to play again.”
The Chargers came out with their foot on the gas pedal and never let up. They took a 3-0 lead on their opening drive of the night when Nate Kaeding capped a 60-yard drive with a 28-yard field goal.
Denver answered with a 26-yard touchdown run by Tatum Bell on their first possession of the night, but Matt Prater’s failed extra point attempt prevented the Broncos from tying the game.
The Bolts responded with a 73-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by Vincent Jackson’s 37-yard catch and punctuated by LaDainian Tomlinson’s one-yard touchdown run, his first of three on the night which made it a 10-6 game.
“The way the offense came out and got us that lead was huge,” safety Clinton Hart said. “We were able to dictate the pace of the game. It’s a whole lot easier to play with a lead, especially against an offense like that. We put together a complete game.”
Following a Broncos punt that ended their second possession, the Chargers widened the gap even further. A 34-yard catch by Antonio Gates set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to give the Chargers a 17-6 lead.
The Chargers made it four for their first four as another Denver punt led to another Bolts touchdown drive. Tomlinson’s four-yard touchdown run made it a 24-6 Bolts’ advantage.
Late in the second quarter, the Broncos drove deep into Bolts territory and threatened to trim the lead just before halftime. But Paul Oliver picked a perfect time for his first career interception as his pick of Jay Cutler in the end zone brought the drive to a halt and allowed the Chargers to maintain their commanding lead.
“It seemed like every time they’d start to get going offensively, our defense would make a big play,” Jackson said. “Our offense and defense really fed off of each other tonight.”
The Broncos made it a little interesting early in the third quarter as they drove 73 yards on their first possession of the second half. Bell’s 37-yard touchdown run made it a 24-13 game just two minutes into the third frame.
As they did throughout the night, the Chargers had an answer. On the ensuing drive, Tomlinson’s 45-yard run, his longest carry of the season, put the Bolts on the door step once again. Rivers’ 13-yard pass to Darren Sproles allowed the star signal caller to set a new franchise record with 34 touchdown throws on the season and gave the Chargers a commanding 31-13 lead.
Just two plays later, the Bolts piled it on some more. On Denver’s first play of their drive that followed Sproles’ touchdown catch, Shaun Phillips tipped a Cutler pass that landed in the hands of Luis Castillo. Following the interception, Tomlinson found the end zone from 14 yards out to push the lead to 38-13.
“We practice the tip drill every day in practice,” Castillo said. “I looked up and saw the ball and was able to grab it.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Cutler threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Scheffler to pull Denver within 17, but the Broncos never got any closer. A 37-yard run by Sproles set up a two-yard touchdown run by the do-it-all back.
After a stop by the Bolts’ defense, the Chargers got a chance to drive one final nail in the coffin, and Jacob Hester served as the hammer. The rookie back picked up 37 yards in the waning minutes and scored his first-career rushing touchdown to round out the scoring at 52-21.
Tomlinson finished the night with 96 yards on 14 carries to finish the season with 1,110 yards and 11 touchdowns. Sproles led the club with 115 yards on the ground as the Chargers controlled the pace of the game and had the ball more than 12 minutes more than the Broncos. LT made sure to thank his offensive line for their big night.
“The guys up front, they totally dominated,” Tomlinson said. “They did what any good offensive line does; they took control of the game.”
Sunday’s win allows the Bolts to host the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC Wildcard playoff game next Saturday night. The Chargers enter the playoffs on a four-game winning streak and believe they’re playing their best football at the right time of the year.
“We’re on a good roll,” guard Kris Dielman said. “We’re ending the season on a good note. Now it’s time to go into the postseason and make a good run.”