SAN DIEGO • Fear the team that no one feared.
After the Denver Broncos’ sometimes methodical, sometimes sensational win over the San Diego Chargers, it’s time to dive into the pool of belief.
The Broncos rank near the top of the NFL. That’s for sure.
But it’s time to start wondering if they could climb to the peak. The defense roars with violent power, and the Kyle Orton-offense is steady, mistake-free and deceptively dangerous.
Qualcomm Stadium was a strange destination in the waning seconds of the Broncos’ 34-23 victory. For hours, the oval had roared with noise. A sea of fans wearing light blue were standing and shouting for their heroes.
The Broncos killed that happy scene.
During the game’s final ticks, Qualcomm was weirdly quiet. Nearly all of the sea of blue had departed, and the few remaining fans were staring at the concrete.
Give Chargers fans credit: They can count.
The Broncos boast six wins and no losses. The Chargers are 2-3, and there is no way San Diego passes Denver this season. We might as well place the AFC West crown on Josh McDaniels this morning.
That explains why a Chargers supporter, who might have enjoyed a little too much booze, was shouting at the limits of his lungs a few minutes after the game.
“No more Norv!” he shouted over and over.
Norv, of course, is Norv Turner, the Chargers’ endlessly embattled coach.
But the Chargers faithful shouldn’t blame everything on Norv, even if he is one of the NFL’s weakest, least daring minds.
The Broncos, once again, earned this one.
Eddie Royal provided the thrills on this night, and he deserves most credit for his eyesight. He looked downfield, saw virtual acres of open space and sprinted his way to a 93-yard kickoff return and a 71-yard punt return in the first half.
He would have scored both touchdowns in a touch football game.
But it was the defense that again delivered victory. The Chargers shrugged off Royal’s fantastic efforts to take a 20-17 heading into halftime, and there was every reason for optimism.
The Chargers had big arm (and big mouth) Philip Rivers at quarterback and LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the most gifted halfbacks in NFL history.
Didn’t matter. The Chargers throttled the Broncos for 169 yards in the first quarter, but had 142 additional yards the rest of the game. Elvis Dumervil led a smothering pass rush, which left Rivers nervous and worthless in the pocket.
As Rivers and Tomlinson faded, the Broncos’ offense gained strength. Orton enjoyed superb protection and picked apart the Chargers secondary in the second half.
A day after Jay Cutler’s first-half mistakes doomed the Chicago Bears to another loss, Orton took a surgical route to victory. He’s not dazzling, but he doesn’t make mistakes.
Sure, a few skeptics had remained of the Broncos’ might. Yes, Denver was blessed to walk away with victories after home battles with the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots.
Dump the skepticism. This team is unbeaten.
This team is for real.