Chargers end Denver Broncos’ season with a thud |

Chargers end Denver Broncos’ season with a thud

Jeff Legwold
Rocky Mountain News
Denver, CO Colorado
Joe Mahoney/Rocky Mountain NewsA dejected Jay Cutler walks to the sideline Sunday night at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Cutler threw for more than 300 yards, but he was intercepted twice in the season-ending loss.

DENVER, Colorado ” There is now no more time, no more games and no more hope in Denver for 2008.

The Broncos will ring in the new year as a battered team with a bruised ego to go with another playoff miss.

“What we did was unacceptable,” cornerback Dre Bly said. ” . . . Just unacceptable.”

And when all of the pieces were swept up after a 52-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium, the Broncos had carved out a little slice of history Sunday night.

They became, on the heels of seven Chargers touchdowns, the first team in the league’s modern era to let a three-game lead in a division race dissolve in their hands with three games left to play.

Dissolved into an 8-8 finish that grew from a record-setting 3-0 start, from an 8-5 mark when the month began. All beat into the ground by a San Diego team that talked the talk and then walked all over the Broncos’ roster frailties.

“They came out talking and then they backed it up,” Broncos linebacker Jamie Winborn said.

“They just kept the pedal down,” Bly said. “They kept coming at us.”

And in a year when they’ve done things like pile a franchise-record number of running backs on injured reserve and make a staggering number of roster changes, the loss became a rather large and ugly period at the end of the 2008 sentence.

“They really picked us apart,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. “They did the things you have to do to win.”

With all of the check marks next to all of the Broncos’ problems all present and accounted for when all was said and done: Not enough defense, not enough of a run game, not enough margin for error to overcome their own mistakes or force somebody else to make some.

The Broncos had entered the evening, after all, with but a puncher’s chance as their only real chance. They needed a haymaker, or three, to put the Chargers down in this one.

They needed their quarterback to throw for more touchdowns than the Chargers’ offense could construct with a far more-balanced look, so much so that when the Chargers simply forced the Broncos to punt four times in the first half, the die largely had been cast, no matter how many plays got run the rest of the way. That left too many hurdles to be cleared for the Broncos to avoid another ugly loss in Southern California.

“Yeah, we needed to score every time,” Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler said.

In the end, losses to the Chiefs, Raiders and the Bills did them in, no loss in that group any bigger or smaller than the one the Broncos authored Sunday, but certainly just as damaging to the finished product.

Sunday’s may be more memorable because of when it happened on the calendar, rather than how it all looked when things were said and done.

Because had they somehow done all of what needed to be done Sunday night, the Broncos would have then been the team with a shaky defense in the postseason, the one without a reliable run game, the one that turned the ball over too much and didn’t sack the quarterback enough.

Instead, they are now the one that finished the regular season that way.

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