Posted Mon Oct 19th by Monty
November 19, 2006 is a day that has haunted the Broncos for three seasons.
On that fateful night, the 7-2 defending AFC West champion Broncos hosted the 7-2 eventual AFC West champion Chargers at INVESCO Field at Mile High. The Chargers notched a 35-27 comeback win, engineered by first-year-starting quarterback Philip Rivers, and gained a firm grip on the division that they have yet to relinquish.
Jake Plummer, who fumbled the game away, was benched less than a week later. Defensive coordinator Larry Coyer was fired following a 9-7 playoffs-less finish.
25 months later, Mike Shanahan still couldn’t figure out a way to effectively beat this Chargers team, losing 52-21 in an embarrassing winner-takes-the-division season finale that would be his final game as Broncos Head Coach.
Tonight is the Broncos’ chance to exorcise those demons.
This game is nothing less than an opportunity to take back control of the AFC West. With a win tonight, it’s true the Broncos would gain a 3 1/2 game-lead in the division. But that’s just a number; the meaning behind it would be so much more.
The big bad bullies of the division would be humbled. The Chargers have won five of the last six games against the Broncos, and by an average of 25.0 points. And while the Broncos squeaked out a win in 2008 that looked to turn the tables in the division, they have never come close to beating the Chargers in San Diego.
Any few remaining critics would be silenced. There has never been a 6-0 team in the NFL that hasn’t been “for real.” In fact, since the division realignment, every one has gone on to win their division.
With that comes respect, but more importantly, self-respect, and the belief within the locker room that this team is capable of beating anybody.
And a team with that type of belief is the most dangerous type come January.
Finally, the Broncos would gain something through what the Chargers would lose. Those who cover and cheer for the Chargers speak of a metaphorical window closing on their postseason chances. “How much longer will the window be open?”, they ask. The 14-2 team that beat the Broncos in 2006 has yet to live up to those expectations. Age, injuries, and free agency have begun to take their toll on a squad once chock-full of Pro Bowlers.
With a win, the Broncos could close San Diego’s window for good.
With a loss, the Broncos leave San Diego’s window open.
Close that window tonight, Denver. Take back control, and your rightful place atop the AFC West. GO BRONCOS!