Broncos' 27-19 win over Chargers sets up showdown in Oakland
DENVER (AP) Welcome back to Raiders-Broncos, a rivalry that's lost some of its luster in recent years.
Now, both teams are 6-2 and headed for a showdown next weekend with the AFC West lead on the line.
You have to go all the way back to Week 16 of 2002 to find the last time these old AFL foes had this much at stake in a game against one another.
The Raiders won that one, 28-16, ending Denver's hopes of taking the division, sending Brian Griese to the bench, Steve Beuerlein to the huddle and the Broncos on an offseason quarterback quest that ended with Jake Plummer under center in Denver.
The Broncos and Raiders both stayed a step ahead of Kansas City (5-2) on Sunday in the NFL's top division.
Oakland overcame 23 penalties to beat Tampa Bay 30-24 in overtime. Then, Denver beat San Diego 27-19 by hitting Philip Rivers 17 times, batting down 13 of his passes, picking off three other throws and sacking him four times.
''That's the type of defense that we play,'' said Von Miller, who had a sack, along with Jared Crick, Justin Simmons and T.J. Ward. ''There's enough to go around for everybody. It's great on our team. No one is waiting around for somebody else to make a play. We're all out there trying to make a play from left corner to right corner and everybody in between.
''We feel like the next play is our chance to make a play for our team and that type of mentality really drives the type of style that we play on defense.''
Rivers took solace in this as he left: ''We split with the Denver Broncos this year.''
And that's saying something.
Other takeaways from Denver's win that avenged a 21-13 loss at San Diego 17 days earlier:
GROUNDED GROUND GAME: Rookie Devontae Booker's first NFL start was a mixed bag: a 3-yard TD run and a fumble at the 2 to go with just 54 yards on 19 carries (2.8-yard average per carry).
''It was non-existent,'' coach Gary Kubiak said of his run game just six days after it had produced 190 yards against Houston. ''We come out and go right down the field and look like a good, sharp football team and then we couldn't get out of our way about the next three or four series. I'm disappointed. I know that we were missing C.J. today, but that's a done deal. We have to improve.''
Kapri Bibbs ran twice for 4 yards and Juwan Thompson ran once for a 1-yard TD.
SAFETY DANCE: Ward and Darian Stewart both had interceptions on the day they were featured on the Broncos' program .
''I told him on the sidelines, `Stew, we both got picks and we was on the cover today. We've got to be on the cover every week,'" Stewart said.
Stewart's 25-yard interception return to the San Diego 10 set up Booker's 3-yard TD run. Ward picked off Rivers' pass at the 30, spun around and made it to the Chargers 7.
''I've been telling you dudes that I'm a natural running back,'' Ward said. ''I just don't like getting hit.''
He was lamenting not getting in the end zone like Bradley Roby did on his 49-yard pick-6 in the first half, however, when Booker fumbled the ball away at the 2 moments later.
DINGED DENVER: The Broncos were missing two defensive starters in linebacker Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and cornerback Aqib Talib (back) to start the game and lost cornerback Kayvon Webster to a hamstring injury.
The Broncos also lost their defensive leader when coordinator Wade Phillips was taken to a hospital after getting knocked down during Roby's return in the second quarter. He was released a couple of hours later and is expected back at work Monday.
San Diego running back Melvin Gordon was blocked into the 69-year-old assistant by Miller, and Phillips was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field in a scary scene that concluded with him giving a thumbs-up on his way to the tunnel.
With linebackers coach Reggie Herring taking over Denver's defensive calls, the Broncos had a goal-line stand in the closing minutes and picked off Rivers twice more in the second half.
''I got on the headset a couple of times and he told me shut the hell up, he's got it,'' said Kubiak, who gave Herring a game ball.
BACKUP BACK UP: Cornerback Lorenzo Doss surrendered Travis Benjamin's 14-yard touchdown catch and came down hard on his back. But he returned to the game and broke up Rivers' fourth-down pass to tight end Hunter Henry in the closing minutes.
OFF THE MARK: San Diego kicker Josh Lambo had a forgettable day by pushing a 45-yard field goal wide left just before halftime and watching Shaq Barrett block an extra point in the third quarter.
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