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The Chargers can't overcome early scores by the Denver Broncos in the 28-20 loss on Sunday. Photo by Bill Reilly
The Chargers can't overcome early scores by the Denver Broncos in the 28-20 loss on Sunday. Photo by Bill Reilly
Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story Sports

Chargers loss is all in the timing

Defense couldn’t slow Manning’s offense early on 

SAN DIEGO – Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was storming the sidelines, making frustrated gestures and yelling into his headset at the start of the second half.

The reason: quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos had just stormed the field, scoring yet another touchdown and needing only 3 minutes and 26 seconds to do so.

That was the longest time of possession in the Broncos’ four scoring drives in their 28-20 win at Qualcomm Stadium.

In the first half, Manning and his offense needed just 57 seconds to score their first touchdown; their remaining scoring drives took 2 minutes and 27 seconds and 1 minute and 25 seconds.

Ono the sideline, McCoy’s shoulders slumped even further with news that center Nick Hardwick suffered what later was called a “stinger,” and wouldn’t finish the game despite trying.

And that after losing left tackle King Dunlap with a concussion (his third of the season); fullback Le’Ron McClain, who wouldn’t return following an ankle injury and linebacker Larry English left the game with a biceps injury.

After the game, McCoy didn’t express any initial concerns over Denver’s ability to score so quickly in the first half.

“They’re a very explosive football team,” McCoy said. “They do it week in, week out (over) the last two years, and you understand that when you play these guys, the talent they have on the football team, that they’re very good. Give them credit where credit’s deserved.”

As the offensive coordinator for the Broncos just a year ago, McCoy knew what the Broncos have in their quarterback.

“They’re going to make some plays, that’s a given,” he said. “The points they’re averaging this year, we all know about that – what Peyton’s doing and their offense is doing – but you’ve got to minimize the big plays.”

In the second half, the Chargers defense did settle down.

Linebacker Manti Te’o experienced going against the Manning offense for the first time this season, calling it “fast.”

Ask anybody who’s gone against it,” he said. “It’s fast.”

The challenge, Te’o said, was not how fast the speed of the offense affected them physically, but rather the issues it posed on their defense’s communications.

“Everybody has to be tuned in to what’s going on with the play,” he said. “And everybody has to get the call, and everybody has to go. And definitely, a fast paced offense like that, was definitely a challenge.”

That may have contributed to Denver’s ability to take only 7 minutes and 35 seconds to score 28 points during the game.

“As a team, we knew that we could execute better and that’s definitely something that we’ve got to do, and that’s definitely something we did in the second half,” Te’o said.

The defense kept the Broncos out of the end zone after the opening drive of the second half, allowing quarterback Philip Rivers and the offense a chance to make a comeback.

“I thought our defense played their tail off,” Rivers said. “I know there’s going to be a couple of plays they wish they had back. But they gave us the ball enough to be able to go win, and we just didn’t get it done.”

Te’o said there’s no new way, or extra set of training that can help get the defense communicating better against an up tempo style of office.

“We all just got to be locked in. That’s what we did in the second half,” he said. “Everybody knew what to do, where to get the call from. There’s nothing special. You just got to go out there and communicate and make sure everybody is on the same page.”

Besides the pacing of Manning’s offense, hearing him go through the numerous calls at the line scrimmage, Te’o said it was something that had to be taken with a grain of salt.

“Peyton’s Peyton, he’s good for a reason, and you’ve got to be careful because you don’t know if he’s really checking (plays)… At the end of the day, his check will maybe give you a clue of what may happen, and it may not. You can’t cheat. You’ve just got to play everything straight up and play honest.”

The Chargers’ record drops to 4-5; it’s the third time this season they’ve been below .500. They next play the Dolphins in Miami and then the Chiefs in Kansas City before returning home to face the Cincinnati Bengals Dec. 1.