The Chargers used a balanced attack on offense and completely controlled time of possession, holding the ball for 38:49.
San Diego was able to gain 177 yards rushing compared to just 18 for Denver.
The Broncos hurt themselves as well, committing several critical penalties that allowed the Chargers to stay on the field.
The Chargers' running game was the story, however. Ryan Mathews averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and the Chargers opened the third quarter with a scoring drive that was capped off by a 23-yard run by Mathews.
This gave them a 24-10 lead, and the Broncos were never able to recover.
Denver (11-3) will now have the next 10 days to rest before hosting the Houston Texans (2-11).
|Denver Broncos Game Grades|
|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
|Week 15 vs. Chargers|
Passing Offense: Peyton Manning ended up throwing for 289 yards in the loss, but there were many communication issues with his receivers. He also threw a crucial interception late in the game when his arm was hit by a defender.
Passing Defense: The Broncos held Philip Rivers to just 166 yards passing on the night, but he was able to complete some tough passes in critical situations to keep drives going.
Rushing Offense: Denver never got anything out of the running game, gaining just 18 yards and averaging just 1.6 yards per carry on the night.
Rushing Defense: The San Diego running game was one of the stories of the night. The Broncos simply couldn't stop them. Ryan Mathews has now rushed for 100 yards or more three times in his career against the Broncos, posting 128 yards on the night.
Special Teams: Linebacker Nate Irving committed a neutral-zone infraction with the Chargers facing 4th-and-4 from their own 7-yard line. This gave the Chargers an automatic first down and the drive continued.
Coaching: Denver could not find a way to stop the San Diego rushing attack or get the ball back when they had to. Offensively, the Broncos should have stuck with the hurry-up offense exclusively, not just when they became desperate.
Passing Offense: Peyton Manning has thrown for only 118 yards in the first half, and his offense has three consecutive three-and-out drives in the first half.
Passing Defense: San Diego rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen has been the story, scoring touchdowns on both of his first-half receptions.
Rushing Offense: San Diego has done a good job clogging up the middle, and Denver has been held to a total of 15 yards rushing and under two yards per carry.
Rushing Defense: San Diego's game plan has been to play ball control, and their running game is allowing them to do that. Ryan Mathews has 58 yards rushing at the break.
Special Teams: Trindon Holliday is averaging 27 yards on his four kick returns tonight, but San Diego has done a good job containing the big play.
Coaching: The Broncos must find a way to stop the Chargers' rushing attack in order to get them off the field. Offensively, the absence of Wes Welker is being felt, as the offense has been stagnant. Denver should find a way to get their running backs involved in the passing game.