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Chargers' unbeaten run ends in Denver

©Associated Press
October 7, 2002

DENVER -- The Broncos figured out how to stop LaDainian Tomlinson: Stay patient.

Brian Griese threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns, and Denver clogged Tomlinson's running lanes to hold the league's leading rusher to 48 yards Sunday in a 26-9 win against the previously unbeaten Chargers.

Instead of aggressively pursuing Tomlinson, as most teams have this season, Denver's defenders hung around the gaps, waiting for him to make his move before collapsing on him. The plan forced San Diego to lean on quarterback Drew Brees, who wasn't up to the task.

"Wait for people to come to you, that's the key," Denver defensive end Trevor Pryce said of stopping cutbacks. "If you're overzealous trying to make a play, trying to do too much, that's when cutbacks happen."

Denver moved into a tie with San Diego for second in the AFC West. Both are a game behind Oakland, the league's only undefeated team.

Tomlinson tied a team record with 217 yards last week against New England but was held to 38 yards on 13 carries in the first half. That forced San Diego to go almost exclusively to the pass.

The Chargers opened the second half with 16 straight passes before Tomlinson gained 10 yards on a run four minutes into the fourth quarter. San Diego attempted 33 passes and ran once in the half.

Brees was 26-for-42 for 235 yards but was intercepted twice and couldn't get the ball downfield against a two-deep zone.

"I think it is like the Orange Crush defense group of the '70s," San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer said of Denver's defense.

The Chargers came in with the league's stingiest defense, allowing 9.5 points a game, but Denver kept them off balance with quick-hitting passes and an occasional hurry-up offense.

Denver scored on its second play, a 69-yard pass from Griese to Ed McCaffrey on a post route.

Clinton Portis got most of Denver's carries with Olandis Gary playing little and Mike Anderson out with a sprained ankle. Portis had 102 yards on 20 carries.

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