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Broncos must overcome Chargers, themselves on Sunday

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado

All I want for Christmas is a Broncos playoff berth.

Of course, I always ask for a Red Rider BB gun, too.

I won’t get either this year.



Like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” Denver keeps wishing for a special gift ” a postseason run. Unfortunately, the Broncos should have listened to Ralphie’s mom, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

In this case, Denver can’t stop shooting itself in the foot. On Nov. 30, San Diego lost to Atlanta, 34-17, to fall to 4-8 overall. The same day, the Broncos scored a huge win over the then red-hot Jets to improve to 7-5.



A week later, Denver beat the pathetic Chiefs, meaning all the Broncos had to do was win one more game ” or have San Diego lose ” and they would be in the playoffs.

What’s happened since then? For Denver, a comedy of errors.

Certainly, injuries all over the field have severely hurt the Broncos playoff chances, but coaching mistakes the last two weeks shouldn’t be forgotten. I won’t get into the sad specifics here, but both occurred at the end of the first half in Denver’s last two games. Carolina and Buffalo capitalized on the Broncos’ mistakes and went on to win.



Now, the Broncos face a winner-take-all game against a San Diego team still steaming from Ed Hochuli’s call in Week 2 that handed the Broncos a controversial win.

Revenge will probably be sweet for the Chargers.

As of Wednesday, San Diego was favored by eight and a half points over Denver. Seriously? The oddsmakers know the Broncos are down, and almost out.

Here’s what the Broncos must do to have a chance on Sunday. …

San Diego offense vs. Denver defense

If not for early struggles by the Chargers, Philips Rivers would be a candidate for MVP. He leads the league in passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (104.0). Pair him with the combination of LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, and Denver will probably have a tough time stopping San Diego.

The Broncos best hope is try and slow down Tomlinson. Rivers is excellent, but it helps to have Tomlinson in the backfield running the ball and catching passes. Denver’s Champ Bailey ” probably the Broncos best tackler ” will play a valuable role not only in stopping Rivers’ passes, but coming up and making tackles on Tomlinson and Sproles.

To stay close, Denver must limit the Chargers’ big plays and make them kick field goals. Easier said then done.

Denver offense vs. San Diego defense

In the first matchup with the Chargers, the Broncos’ Jay Cutler threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns. Of course, that’s when Denver had something resembling a running game. Down to a tailback who only a month ago was hawking cell phones at a Denver mall, the Broncos will rely on Cutler’s right arm.

San Diego’s defense is giving up 21.7 points and 242.8 yards passing per game ” the latter ranks 31st in the league. If Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler can find open space ” and they should ” Cutler will have success.

That’s really the Broncos only hope. A young, rocket-armed quarterback needs to carry Denver to victory. Sound familiar?

If the Broncos beat the Chargers on Sunday, it truly would be a Christmas Miracle.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.


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