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KLEE: San Diego still Denver's nemesis — but not for long

By Paul Klee Updated: November 17, 2012 at 12:00 am

DENVER • The best and the worst part about Philip Rivers is how much good he does.

Take Rivers of Hope, for example. His foundation has raised and donated more than $1 million to care for foster children in San Diego County. Who does that?

The Chargers’ hotheaded quarterback does.

That’s the best.

“He’s cool, man. Real cool,” said Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, further clouding our state’s view of Rivers as a football villain.

For Broncos fans who prefer Rivers as the nemesis of a generation, that’s the worst.

With that unfortunate dose of reality out of the way, can we please get back to treating Rivers like who he is on football Sundays — Broncos Public Enemy No. 1?

This is professional sports, don’t forget, and the notion of goodwill being more important than good football has no place in the arena.

“But you put on that helmet and he’s a different guy,” Dumervil added.

Sunday at Sports Authority Field, Rivers will be booed like he stole our mountains.

And the Broncos will flatten his Chargers like beach sand.

Nevermind that a locker room full of Broncos spent last week propping up the Chargers leader with kind words. It’s not as if Champ Bailey (7-10 vs. San Diego), D.J. Williams (5-10), Wesley Woodyard (3-5) and Dumervil (4-7) have forgotten the painful defeats Rivers and the Chargers have inflicted through their Broncos careers.

When the Chargers beat the Broncos, they rub it in with lime juice.

Rivers is 9-4 against Denver as the starting quarterback. That includes blowout wins by scores of 35-14, 32-3, 41-3, 21-3 and 52-21. The last one was the worst.

Rivers routinely has been a step ahead of the Broncos, even in identifying Jay Cutler’s true colors while yapping at the Denver sideline.

“I don’t expect him to come in here and throw us the ball,” Bailey said of critics who suggest Rivers isn’t the player he used to be.

“When I first came in, he was pretty much dominating this conference,” Dumervil said. “I know what he’s capable of and what coach Norv Turner can do. So you can never take him lightly.”

San Diego’s won three straight in Denver. The Broncos haven’t even won three straight in Denver.

There were numerous culprits within the organization to blame for the Broncos’ slide from the elite over the past decade.

From the outside, there is one that stands with its chest puffed out: San Diego.

But times are changing.

Sunday in the trenches, where coaches say games are won, the mismatch is severe. Denver has drafted and developed the fiercest pass rush in the NFL. It’s about to get better.

Dumervil left the Carolina game with a shoulder injury. He practiced Friday. Doom has four sacks in his past two games against the Chargers.

Williams was suspended for the first nine games. He returns today with a body that hasn’t been beaten up and a reputation that needs a makeover.

“He’s been looking good in practice,” Von Miller said.

Miller spent Thursday night watching LeBron James and the Heat from a seat behind the Nuggets bench at Pepsi Center. With 10 sacks in nine games, he’s on pace to become Denver’s sack king and trump Dumervil’s single-season franchise record of 17.

The Broncos have more than twice as many sacks (31) as the Chargers (14). Their target Sunday is Rivers, whose mobility is that of a taco stand on Mission Beach.

There’s more. The Chargers starting left tackle didn’t practice Friday. Jared Gaither is listed as doubtful. Miller, Dumervil, Williams, Woodyard are listed as drooling.

“We’re a decent football team right now,” Bailey said. “But we could be so much better.”

A win Sunday gives the Broncos a three-game lead in the AFC West and the head-to-head tiebreaker against the only division rival capable of challenging them, the Chargers.

The Broncos will close in on their first back-to-back AFC West titles since 1986 and ’87.

The Chargers will see their window close.

In 2008, the worst, San Diego ended Denver’s season with a 52-21 win in the finale. It brought change to Denver. Mike Shanahan was fired as coach.

Denver can end San Diego’s season Sunday. It would bring change to San Diego. After the season Turner probably would be fired as coach.

Since Peyton Manning’s magic in a 35-24 win at San Diego in Week 6, the Broncos have been the best — in the NFL.

“There was actually trip wire in San Diego,” said Eric Decker, whose open-field stumble at Qualcomm Stadium has been about their only wobble.

By tripping up Rivers, the Broncos can make it official.

The best of the Chargers is behind them.

Twitter: @klee_gazette

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