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Rivalry Week: Chargers beat Broncos 41-3 to tie largest point differential in franchise history

The point margin tied the largest win over Denver in franchise history.

Football - NFL - Broncos vs. Chargers Photo by Kevin Reece/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Continuing on with Rivalry Week here at SB Nation, I thought it’d be an absolute blast to re-live one of the most-lopsided division games in history. In fact, it’s the most-lopsided game in the head-to-head history of the Chargers and the Broncos.

On Oct. 7, 2007, the Broncos hosted the Chargers for the first of their two matchups that season. Denver entered the game with a 2-2 record while the Chargers were struggling at 1-3 and coming off three-straight losses. It certainly was not the start fans were looking for following their 14-2 2006 season.

This game against the Broncos, however, turned out to be exactly what the Bolts needed to remind themselves that they were still one of the best teams in the NFL.

The Broncos received the opening kickoff in this one, but only managed a pair of first downs behind the arm of quarterback Jay Cutler. Their momentum petered out just before midfield and a stop on 3rd-and-7 forced a punt to the Chargers.

LaDainian Tomlinson started the drive with a pair of carries that went for -2 yards. Obviously not the best start given the circumstances, but he was able to bail the offense out with a 36-yard catch-and-run from Philip Rivers that set the Bolts up on the Broncos’ side of the field. After LT’s fourth-straight touch on the drive, Rivers connected with Antonio Gates for 23 yards. After an incompletion to Vincent Jackson, Rivers found Gates just outside the end zone before finishing the drive with his first career rushing score to give them the early 7-0 lead. But the Bolts got a stroke of luck on the ensuing kickoff when Denver’s Brian Clark gets walloped by San Diego’s Carlos Polk who then fumbles into the arms of Brandon Siler before returning it 23 yards for the second touchdown in as many plays. Just like that, SD was up 14-0.

Cutler and the offense tried to get things going once again, but it was to no avail. After securing their first down, the Chargers were called for a defensive pass interference penalty When cornerback Clinton Hart held on to Tony Scheffler a bit too long. Two plays later, Cutler hit Brandon Marshall on a 26-yard strike but safety Marlon McCree knocked the ball free on the tackle attempt and the Chargers recovered at their own nine-yard line.

Tomlinson received four carries in the first five plays on the ensuing drive before backup Michael Turner got his first carry of the night. At the Chargers’ 45, Rivers connected with Gates and Tomlinson for gains of 13 and 29, respectively, bringing them to the Denver 13. After failing to convert the first, they settled for a Nate Kaeding field goal to make it 17-0.

Both teams traded punts in the second quarter before the Broncos were finally able to put some points up on the board. After a 10-play drive that brought the ball all the way to the San Diego 12, Denver settled for a 30-yard field goal by Jason Elam and the score was now 17-3.

With 1:08 left in the half, Rivers and company decided they were comfortable with the seven-point lead and decided to run the ball and kill the rest of the clock to send things into the locker room. However, after an 11-yard run by LT, Turner broke loose for 49 yards, bringing them to the Denver 17. After an incomplete pass to wideout Craig Davis, they settled for a 45-yard kick by Kaeding to make things 20-3 at the half.

The Chargers came out of the gates blazing, marching straight down the field without being forced into a third down situation, thanks in part to a pair of deep catches by Jackson that totaled 69 yards. Rivers capped off the drive with a 9-yard toss to Gates to push the lead to 27-3.

The Broncos started the second half with some energy, as well. Cutler completed his first three passes for gains of 10, 18, and 14, bringing Denver just over the midfield stripe. Unfortunately, things were just clicking for the Chargers defense and as Cutler’s next pass was intercepted by McCree at the two-yard line and returned back out to the 21.

On this drive, Gates was the lead man, catching three passes for 59 yards before Rivers found Jackson on a 15-yard touchdown throw. The Chargers were starting to throttle the Broncos with a score of 34-3.

San Diego’s defense kept their foot on the gas and forced Denver into their first three-and-out of the evening. However, they followed it up with their own three-and-out but once again forced a quick punt from the Broncos. After three consecutive three-and-outs, all it took for Turner was two plays to cap off the Bolt’s drive with a huge 74-yard touchdown scamper up the left sideline.

After that, backup quarterback Billy Volek and Turner finished the game out for the Chargers, coasting to a victory and a final score of 41-3.

It was an easy day for Rivers who finished with 13-of-18 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his score on the ground. Tomlinson finished with 140 yards from scrimmage and no scores while Turner took 10 carries for 147 yards and a touchdown. Gates led the team in receiving with 113 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Defensively, Stephen Cooper finished with the games only sack and finished with four stops and a tackle-for-loss. McCree made the most plays on that side of the ball, finishing with four tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble. Shawne Merriman and Jamal Williams each finished with a single tackle-for-loss.

It was the worst home loss for the Broncos since the AFL-NFL merger, and tied the largest win for the Chargers over the Broncos in franchise history. That game was back in 1963 when the Bolts toppled Denver 58-20.

I’m not going to lie, that whole thing felt really good to write about. Re-watching the highlights made it even better. Man, what an all-around effort by the entire team.

As Rivalry Week continues, let me know what other games and seasons you all would like to revisit. Let’s take advantage and bask in the glow of all those glory days while we have plenty of time to do it.