Denver Broncos' collapse continues

Chargers follow own pattern with run

November 23, 2009|By Sam Farmer On the NFL

For all of Sunday's surprises - the Raiders stunning the Bengals, the Chiefs shocking the Steelers, the Lions and the Browns in a 75-point shootout - there was one development NFL fans could see coming a mile away:

The slow-motion collapse of the Broncos.

Just like last season, the Chargers delivered the roundhouse that sent the Broncos to the canvas, this time claiming sole possession of the AFC West lead with a 32-3 thumping at Invesco Field.

The Broncos might have looked virtually invincible last month when it got off to a 6-0 start and built a 3 1/2 -game division lead, capped with a win at San Diego. But that team has lost four in a row since, and the Chargers have pulled into the front spot with five victories in a row.

Why isn't this a forehead-slapping shocker?

Because the Chargers have followed this pattern the last five seasons, stumbling out of the gate only to finish with a flurry. Those seasons have ended with bursts of 9-1, 6-3, 10-0, 7-1 and 4-0.

And now, the Chargers have added to that legacy with a 5-0 run.

Still perfect: The Saints and the Colts both improved to 10-0, although the Colts came a lot closer to losing. Whereas the Saints left no doubt with a 38-7 thrashing of the Buccaneers, the Colts needed a late interception to turn back the Ravens.

The 2007 Patriots don't need to start wringing their hands just yet about the Colts or Saints matching their 16-0. With six games to go, the Colts and Saints each still have all three of their division opponents to play, which are seldom easy games.

The combined record of the Colts' remaining opponents is 27-31, and the Saints face teams that are 27-33 - including home games against the Patriots (7-3) and Cowboys (7-3).

Phenomenal finish: Because the Browns-Lions game was blacked out, the Detroit area missed one of the most exciting Lions games in memory, and one in which rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford showed his toughness and determination.

Stafford was crushed into the turf after releasing a Hail Mary pass on the game's second-to-last play, and clearly his left shoulder was causing him excruciating pain. Still, after the Browns were flagged for interference in the end zone on that play - and because the game cannot end on a defensive penalty - the Lions, trailing by six, had one final chance.

Stafford opted to stay in the game, and threw the winning touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

"There was no one who was going to stop him from going back on the field," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said of Stafford, whose X-rays were negative. He will undergo an MRI. "He had come way too far."

Phenomenal finish II: The Raiders' Bruce Gradkowski, having replaced the ineffective JaMarcus Russell as the starting QB, threw a 29-yard touchdown pass with 33 seconds left to forge a 17-17 tie with the Bengals. On the ensuing kickoff, the Raiders recovered a fumble to set up the winning field goal.

That means in the final 33 seconds, the Raiders scored more points than they've averaged (9.8) in a typical game.

Head game: The NFL informed team doctors this week that each club will be required to augment their medical staffs with an "independent neurologist or neurosurgeon" to help with concussions, according to a report by Fox's Jay Glazer. The NFL has become increasingly diligent on head injuries as part of its focus on player safety.

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