SAN DIEGO — The time, the place was set for a good old-fashioned duel — Monday night, 5:30-ish at Qualcomm Stadium — between two of the NFL’s most notable quick draw quarterbacks.
On one side there stood the fast and wild “kid” Philip Rivers; on the other the gritty sharp shooter Peyton Manning.
In a duel, the advantage lies in the quickness, but the key to survive is the aim. Rivers, 30, was quick to the draw, slinging the ball against the Broncos defense — in his 41 pass attempts Rivers got rid of the ball in an average of 2.32 seconds to Manning’s 2.41 seconds in his 30 pass attempts; but Manning, 36, had the aim. And that aim proved to be what kept the Broncos alive in a comeback win (overcoming 24 points at the half, tying an NFL record) and tying the Chargers at 3-3 for first place in the AFC West.
Manning completed 24 of his 30 passes; Rivers completed 25 of his 41 passes and would throw four interceptions, a career high. He attributed those interceptions to being mostly just “poor throws.”
Rivers, entering his ninth season, said that he wasn’t fooled once by the Broncos defense. He said the interception on the third down pass to Robert Meachem in the third was an attempt to “be an incomplete or maybe get interference.”
Turner reduced Rivers’ interceptions to “trying to make a play.”
Every loss hurts, Rivers said. “Regardless of what negative plays or bad plays or how you lose a game. When you lose it’s rough.”
Turner said the loss was as tough as it gets. “Right now we’re not able to put together a complete game,” he said.
Turner remained high on his team, describing them as an “awfully resilient group.” He added that there are things they have to fix so they can play a complete game.
Monday night’s loss is the second in a row where the Chargers led at halftime and let the game slip away in the second half. The Chargers led 17-14 at the half against New Orleans in a game that saw the Saints score 17 unanswered points in the second half for the win.
Against the Broncos, Rivers struggled in the first two series to open the game, with each drive resulting in Mike Scifres’ punts.
Special teams was able to give the Chargers’ offense extra opportunities from Dante Rosario’s fumble recovery on a punt and a Corey Lynch fumble recovery on a kickoff. Both plays resulted in Chargers’ scores.
On the defensive side Quentin Jammer intercepted a pass from Manning and ran it back 80 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, his first points of the season.
“Obviously, we got the turnovers early and it gave us some momentum,” Turner said. “We made big plays. Defensively, we got great pressure.”
Whether Manning had lost anything following his surgeries, one to repair a bulging disk and the other to fuse a nerve in his neck, no longer seems to be a valid question. He came out in the second half going 85 yards in eight plays, instigating a palpable shift in momentum.
Manning finished the game throwing for 309 yards and three touchdowns.
Turner didn’t single out any one player or coach for any failings, instead taking the full brunt of the blame. “If you want to make this about somebody, it’s not about one of the guys in there; make it about me,” he said.
The Chargers head into week seven with a bye, before they resume against the 1-5 Cleveland Browns, Oct. 28.
“I think if you look at our team and you look at the stretches where we play at a high level, we’re capable of becoming a very good team,” Turner said.