San Diego’s defense entered the game ranked dead last in overall efficiency according to Advanced NFL Stats, but they held Denver’s record-breaking offense to its lowest output of the season, in terms of both points and yards (295).
Their previous lows had been 27 points against KC in Week 11, and 397 yards against these same Chargers in Week 10.
Another day, another record-setting performance for the Broncos (11-2). Another year, another playoff berth for John Fox’s squad.
Last week, Eric Decker set a new team mark for touchdown receptions in a game. Sunday, in the Broncos’ 51-28 (Gamebook) win over the visiting Titans (5-8), they established new marks for both their team and the league, clinching their third straight playoff berth along the way.
Matt Prater hit a 64-yard field goal to break the record for the longest in league history, and the Broncos racked up 39 first downs, their most in franchise history.
Their 515 points are the most of any Broncos team; the prior record of 501 was set by the 1998 tite squad.
Hmm, loading up to stop the run against a Peyton Manning-led team? That’s exactly what the Chiefs opted for on Sunday.
The strategy was anything but predictable, but the result was, as the Broncos (10-2) overcame a 21-7 deficit and hung on for a 35-28 (Gamebook) win over the host Chiefs (9-3), completing a season sweep and giving them a commanding advantage atop the AFCW.
It was a record-setting day for Peyton Manning, whose five touchdown passes gave him a new franchise mark of 41 on the season, and for Eric Decker, whose four scores set a new Broncos single-game record.
For thirty minutes of play, Manning/Brady 14 did not appear to have much of a chance of living up to billing. Of course, it was a matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and Sunday night’s game did not disappoint.
But bouncing footballs were the stars of the show, rather than the future HOF quarterbacks.
The Broncos (9-2) stormed out to a 24-0 lead, allowed the Patriots (8-3) to score 31 straight points, and then forced overtime with a fourth-quarter touchdown drive, before ultimately succumbing in a 34-31 (Gamebook) classic.
For the third straight week, Kansas City's
overrated vaunted defense allowed over 400 yards, and the Chargers (5-6) knocked off the Chiefs (9-2) in an epic 41-38 shootout.
Philip Rivers threw for 392 yards and three touchdowns, including a last-minute 26-yarder to Seyi Ajirotutu, giving the Broncos a chance to take sole possession of first place in the AFCW tonight with a win at New England.
Denver/KC was billed as the game of the year, or even among the best of all-time, based solely upon the teams' W/L records.
But in reality, these were the squads ranked 3rd and 16th in overall efficiency according to Brian Burke's rankings.
In other words, it was something of a mismatch, and it played out precisely that way (not that these things always do).
Monday night's showdown between the rising Panthers and always contending Patriots turned out the better matchup, and may have been the season's best game to date.
Not that they were ever terribly worried, but the '72 Dolphins can pop those champagne corks. In an AFCW showdown that wasn't as close as many had expected, the Broncos knocked off the NFL's last unbeaten team, 27-17 (Gamebook).
Denver and Kansas City are now tied atop the AFC and AFCW at 9-1, with the rematch coming just two weeks from now at Arrowhead.
But before that, the Broncos head to New England for Manning/Brady 14, while the Chiefs will host the Chargers.
For the first time all season, the Broncos (8-1) failed to score 30 points (or 33, to be exact), but they leave San Diego with a 28-20 (Gamebook) win over the Chargers (4-5), setting up next week's showdown at SAF@MH against the Chiefs (9-0).
In the team's first game without head coach John Fox, who's in North Carolina recovering from heart valve replacement surgery, Peyton Manning threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Demaryius Thomas on consecutive possessions - two to close the first half, and another to open the second.
San Diego pulled one over on Denver with a successful punt fake on their opening possession, but the Broncos eventually forced a punt.
Kansas City (9-0) dodged another bullet on Sunday to remain undefeated with a 23-13 victory at Buffalo (3-6).
For the Chiefs, it was their fifth straight week facing either a backup quarterback or one who'd taken over midseason, and to their credit, they again took full advantage.
Kansas City's defense allowed a season-high 470 yards and 25 first downs, but as they've been doing all season long, they came up with huge plays when it counted most.
Denver started the game by forcing Washington into a quick three-and-out, and then drove 77 yards in nine plays, with Wes Welker scoring from six yards out for his ninth touchdown of the season. For Welker, that ties his career single-season high, only halfway through the year.
From there, the rest of the half was characterized by some textbook Foxball. First came another replay challenge that ignored the leverage of a situation (in this case, again, low). Later on, there was a punt on 4th-and-3 from the plus-43, even with a quarterback having perhaps the greatest season in history.