The Denver Broncos’ advantages over their division rival, San Diego, were evident from the get-go. The visitors’ offense quickly took the lead on their opening drive and although they didn’t put up the total points they wished they had, the outcome was never in doubt.

Behind Brock Osweiler’s efficient play and a 76.8 quarterback rating, a stifling defense that returned to early season form in creating turnovers, the Broncos improved to 10-2 with a 17-3 win at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. For the third straight game the Broncos won the turnover battle, leaving San Diego +2. Denver used a balanced attack on offense to wear down an already struggling Charger defense.

Just two early plays were enough for the Broncos to put the game out of reach. The Broncos quickly took the ball down the field in eight plays and just 3:45 minutes. Demaryius Thomas caught a 21-yard pass which set up his play-action three-yard touchdown reception on the next play. Just five drives later, with seconds left in the first quarter, Danny Trevathan’s interception return for a 25-yard touchdown gave the Broncos a 14-0 lead. A field goal apiece brought the score to 17-3 before half.

Offensively, the Broncos came out with the same balanced attack from the previous three weeks and at half they had passed 16 times and rushed 17. With the large lead and behind a suffocating defense, the game would slow to a grind in the second half. Zero points were scored in the second half and fortunately for the Broncos, none were needed.

Defensively, the Broncos pass rush was unstoppable and the Chargers couldn’t get thier running game going either. Sunday, outside of a few nice runs, the Chargers continued to play one-dimensional football. They could not consistently threaten the Denver defense and entered the half with only 126 total yards behind Rivers 94 passing yards. Josh Lambo recorded their only points of the day with a 51-yard field goal on his second attempt. The second half would be even worse.

The Broncos ended the contest with four sacks and countless quarterback hurries and hits. When the Broncos pass rushers couldn’t get to Rivers it was often due to a hold. Of the Chargers eight penalties in the contest, four were offensive holding calls.

The Broncos defense was smothering outside of a few draw plays and short passes that allowed Donald Brown, Melvin Gordon or Danny Woodhead to get free. San Diego never had a red zone opportunity and amassed only 272 total yards on 11 drives and 62 plays. The main difference in the game was obviously Trevathan’s first half interception, but it was also the way the Chargers started the second half.

The Chargers came out of halftime and showed life early with two first downs, aided by a 20-yard run by Melvin Gordon. The rookie and former Heisman Trophy candidate continued his season-long struggles to hold onto the football. He took the handoff, ran left and while surrounded by Broncos, he let Miller rip the ball free. Miller held onto the ball and gave the Broncos their second takeaway of the game.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, they could not capitalize. For the second straight week Brandon McManus missed a field goal attempt, this time from 52 yards, nullifying Miller’s forced fumble and recovery.

Once again the Broncos reestablished their dominance over the Chargers offensive line and hit Rivers repeatedly as they tried to throw their way back into the game. After two successful runs by Gordon and Brown the Chargers were faced with a third-and-9. Malcom Floyd caught a slant pass for a first down and big gain but was hit hard by newly signed safety Josh Bush causing a fumble, which was recovered by Darian Stewart.

Much like the Chargers, the Broncos could not score points in the second half, even off the turnovers. The 14-point lead masked the offense’s inability to score points, but their success on third downs ran off precious clock time. They finished the day six-of-13 on third downs, well above their 33 percent season average and they held the ball for 32:57 of the contest.

After the Chargers third and final turnover with 7:46 to go in the third quarter, the Broncos made their only one of the game. A big catch by Virgil Green gained 22 yards and set up what looked like it would be the first score of the second half, but an underthrown Osweiler pass to Sanders in the end zone landed in second year cornerback Jason Verrett’s hands instead.

Luckily for the Broncos, Miller, Jackson and the defense gave Rivers no time to even find the running backs and tight ends he used in the first half. The Broncos quickly got the ball back with 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but on the two yard line due to a great Mike Scifres punt. The Broncos rushing attack and some well-placed passes allowed the Broncos to gain 50 yards and, more importantly, run off 6:37 of clock time before punting back to the Chargers.

The fourth quarter continued in the same fashion. Both teams could not break through for a score and the Broncos were intent on not turning the ball over again. At the end of the day Osweiler threw for an uninspiring 16 of 26 passes for only 161 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Broncos 39 rushing attempts is what wore the Chargers down and prevented a come back. Anderson left the game due to an ankle injury after rushing for 42 yards on seven carries, Hillman rushed for 56 yards and Thompson added 27. Sanders was Osweiler’s leading target with eight but only caught three while Thomas hauled in six catches for a game high 61 yards.

On defense, Miller in particular kept coming at Rivers with amazing regularity as the clock ticked down and the Chargers became increasingly desperate. That desperation was highlighted by Rivers throwing the ball left-handed and short of the line of scrimmage late in the fourth quarter for an intentional grounding penalty. The grounding penalty attributed to the drive ending in a turnover on downs.

Rivers became more and more agitated and even got into a shoving match with Miller after one of several quarterback hits down the stretch. Miller finished the day with two sacks, four quarterback hits, four tackles (two for a loss), one pass defended, one forced fumble and recovery.

The pressure inside the pocket forced Rivers into several terrible throws and some intense hits. Miller, then Shane Ray, got the third and fourth sacks of the game to seal the victory. In the second half alone the Chargers fumbled twice to start the half, punted twice and turned the ball over on downs twice to end the game. Ray’s sack with 31 seconds left, turned the ball over on downs and Osweiler took a knee for the Broncos 10th victory of the season.

Rivers day ended going 18 of 35 for 202 yards passing with one interception. The Chargers rushed for 93 yards on 23 carries for 4.04 yards per carry. Gordon had 12 carries for 55 yards and Gates caught six passes on nine targets for only 50 yards.

The Broncos early lead undoubtably dictated how the second half played out. In his third start in the NFL, Osweiler was aided by a truly masterful defensive performance. Games like Sunday may not light up the scoreboard but they changed the win-loss column where it matters. The Broncos won their 15th consecutive divisional road game, the longest streak in NFL history. Their quiet, sometimes dull win in San Diego showed, for the third week in a row, that they can win with defense and protecting the football. Some things never change in the NFL and that is one of them.

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