SAN DIEGO — Take away all those special teams blunders and turnovers, and this is how the Chargers were supposed to look all along.
Philip Rivers tied his career high with four touchdown passes and San Diego beat the Denver Broncos, 35-14, last night for their third straight victory.
While Rivers did it on a season-low 233 yards, San Diego’s defense, led by linebacker Shaun Phillips, settled in and harassed Denver’s Kyle Orton after he led an easy opening scoring drive.
Patrick Crayton scored on a 40-yard catch-and-run late in the second quarter, hurting his left wrist as he fell into the end zone, and speedy Darren Sproles had a 57-yard catch-and-run for a TD early in the third.
The four-time defending AFC West champion Chargers (5-5) even pulled off a fake punt, a remarkable accomplishment considering the special teams gaffes that contributed to a 2-5 start. Mike Scifres — who’s had five punts blocked this year — waited for fullback Mike Tolbert to get open, then hit him with a 29-yard pass that set up Rivers’s tying 6-yard scoring pass to Malcom Floyd in the first quarter.
Orton was coming off a four-touchdown performance in a 49-29 dismantling of Kansas City. The Chargers held him to 217 yards on 24-of-38 passing and sacked him five times.
Phillips had two sacks in the second quarter, including one when he chased down Orton as he tried to complete a flea-flicker.
Denver dropped to 3-7.