Familiar Broncos, Chargers meet again for early season edge
CARSON, Calif. — Philip Rivers’ 39 touchdown passes against the Denver Broncos are the most he has thrown against any opponent in his long NFL career.
So are the 58 sacks he has taken from Von Miller and his predecessors.
When the Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) resume their AFC West rivalry with Denver (3-2) on Sunday in the teams’ second meeting of this season , Rivers will be seeking his 100th victory as a starter. He knows almost exactly what to expect from his biannual meeting with the defense he knows better than any other.
But that doesn’t often help the Chargers, who have lost 11 of their past 13 meetings with the Broncos.
“You can almost get to where you overthink things,” Rivers said. “You overthink, ‘Well, they know that we know this about them, and we know they know this, so maybe we need to do this.’ … It seems more so this team just because of the scheme they’ve kept intact for a while.
“You get in on Monday morning, and you can write up every player on the defense, and you know what they play before you even look at a tape. And they can do the same for us. But you can get to where you overthink things. It’s like, ‘No, we’re going to trust what we do. Here’s what our plan is, and let’s just go.’”
The Broncos beat LA in the teams’ season opener last month on a last-second blocked field goal by Shelby Harris, but they’ve headed in different directions recently.
Denver has lost two of its past three with a sputtering offense — coordinated by former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy — that has scored only one touchdown in each of those games and hasn’t managed to crack 16 points in the past month. Inconsistent quarterback Trevor Siemian is likely to be without three injured receivers : Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer and Isaiah McKenzie.
“It’s pathetic right now,” running back C.J. Anderson said.
The Broncos also are likely to have a substitute right tackle in place of the injured Menelik Watson, which could mean good things for the Chargers’ dynamic duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The pass-rushing stars have combined for 13 sacks in six games to back the Chargers’ solid pass defense.
Here are more things to watch in the Broncos’ first trip to StubHub Center:
LONG TIME COMING: The Broncos haven’t faced the Chargers in the Los Angeles area since Dec. 10, 1960, during both franchises’ first seasons in the inaugural year of the AFL. Owner Barron Hilton’s Chargers played at the Coliseum for one year before relocating to San Diego. They’ve been fierce rivals ever since. The Chargers will celebrate by wearing their historic powder-blue uniforms in this meeting.
SLOW STARTS: Denver would be wise to jump on the Chargers early. Los Angeles has scored just seven points in the first quarters of its six games, repeatedly struggling to find its offensive groove early.
“I think we’ve gotten a little better with our starts, but it’s also been frustrating because we were so good at that last year,” said Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who has tried to shake up his early play-calling to get easier gains. “I don’t want to say we’re making process, and then we go out there and it’s, ‘What was that idiot saying?’”
NOT-SO-BIG D: Denver’s defense is still No. 1 in the NFL, but it was steamrollered last week by Giants backup running back Orleans Darkwa for a career-best 117 yards — 6 more than the Broncos allowed Marshawn Lynch, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon and LeSean McCoy combined.
They’ve also forced just four turnovers as opponents aren’t dropping back to throw much, which makes it harder for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. to get their hands on the football, or for Miller to get his hands on the quarterback.
MORE TIME: Chargers receiver Mike Williams is likely to get increased playing time in the second game of the first-round pick’s career. He was sidelined for months with a back injury, but made his first NFL catch last week in the Chargers’ win at Oakland.
Los Angeles already has a strong group of receivers for Rivers in one of the league’s most productive passing games, but the Chargers’ inability to run the ball consistently has put extra stress on it.
NEW GUY: With Latimer and McKenzie out, the Broncos have promoted Hunter Sharp from the practice squad to help out as a receiver and punt returner. Sharp is from Palmdale, California, the arid town just north of Los Angeles better known as the home of NBA star Paul George.
While Sharp’s teammates might be intrigued by the intimate confines of 27,000-seat StubHub, Sharp is experienced there. “I played my high school all-star game there, so it doesn’t get in my head,” he said. “I’m so happy to go back to California.”