Broncos Get Orange Crushed by San Diego as Chargers Roll into Playoffs

Eric GomezAnalyst IDecember 29, 2008

By all accounts, this should have never happened.

After Week 14 of the 2008 NFL season, the Denver Broncos sat in first place—just as they had done all season long—with a record of 8-5.

The San Diego Chargers, snapping a three-game losing streak that weekend, improved to a paltry 5-8.

For the Broncos, 8-8 was looking way down, staging a collapse, backing in towards the end of the season.

For the Chargers, 8-8 was still pretty unlikely, a matter of pride and finishing strong, even if January football was out of the question.

And yet, here we are.

The San Diego Chargers won their fifth meeting against the Broncos in their last six games last Sunday, with a crushing victory en route to their third straight AFC West divisional title, 52-21.

After sixteen weeks in first place, Denver now goes home empty handed, out of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

More than a regular divisional rivalry game, this game had all of the elements of superior drama, with several sideplots littering the matchup's ultimate allure of deciding who went to the playoffs.

Philip Rivers vs. Jay Cutler. Brandon Marshall vs. Anyone who cared to listen and respond. Shanahan vs. Turner. Ed Hochuli vs. The San Diego Chargers' Fans.

In the end, an anticlimax. Despite throwing 29 fewer passes, Rivers threw one more touchdown and two fewer interceptions than Cutler. Brandon Marshall caught six balls, but was a non-factor. Norv Turner's offense overwhelmed Mike Shanahan's defensive schemes.

And Ed Hochuli can step foot in San Diego again.

Massive collapse aside, Denver never really looked like a contender, boasting one of the league's worst defenses, and their high-powered offense failing to show up in key games.

Ignoring their resurgence for just a moment, San Diego would've definitely been out of the race sooner had it not been for the weakness of the AFC West. 8-8 teams aren't exactly fixtures in the postseason.

By all accounts, this should've never happened.

But then again, as the AFC West Champions would tell you, a lot of things shouldn't have happened this season.

Just ask Ed Hochuli.