Updated: October 14, 2009 at 12:00 am
ENGLEWOOD • Those who remain from the carnage of the Denver Broncos’ last trip to San Diego have tried to forget about it.
The last meeting was one of the worst performances in recent Broncos history. Needing a win to clinch the division and avoid a historic collapse, the Chargers destroyed Denver 52-21. San Diego gained 491 yards and punted only once. Three days later, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen fired longtime coach Mike Shanahan.
Denver makes its first trip to San Diego since that horrific night, for a Monday night game against the Chargers.
“That’s the past,” receiver Brandon Marshall said of the 2008 season finale. “This is a whole new team. It feels like a whole new organization.”
The Broncos’ 5-0 start makes the end of last season seem like a long time ago. The Chargers aren’t the same team either. The momentum from finishing last year with four straight wins and beating Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs has evaporated. San Diego is 2-2 and needs a win to avoid falling 3½ games behind Denver in the AFC West.
“Both teams are at different points as we play them this year,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It’s a much improved Denver team playing a whole lot better on both sides of the ball. We’re an improving team. I don’t think we’re a struggling team, but we’re not where we hoped we’d be at this time of the year.”
While the Broncos might not be focused on their last meeting against the Chargers, coach Josh McDaniels wants them to be well aware of the recent series history. San Diego has won five of the past six games against Denver, and four of those wins have been by at least 20 points.
McDaniels has done many good things since being hired as Denver’s coach, but knows his team can’t keep getting pushed around by a Chargers team that has won the AFC West three straight years.
“San Diego has had our number here for the last few years,” McDaniels said. “This is a game we’re going to be real excited to play.
“We’ve got to change the direction this series has been heading in. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
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