The big question entering Thursday Night Football was whether the San Diego Chargers would have an answer for Peyton Manning, but the focus should have been if the Denver Broncos could stop a stifling ball-control Chargers offense. San Diego's strategy worked, as the Chargers held onto the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game in a 27-20 win.
A rusty first quarter was quickly forgotten when Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen connected on two first-half touchdowns to give the Chargers the lead entering the break. The pair opened the scoring on a crossing route that left the Broncos defense bewildered, and hooked up again shortly before the close to the half on an end zone throw that saw Allen elevate over defenders and give San Diego the lead.
Ryan Mathews extended the lead early in the third quarter and Denver quickly found itself on the wrong end of a 14-point deficit. San Diego's running game was effective throughout the night, with Mathews and Danny Woodhead combining for 171 all-purpose yards, opening up the passing game for Rivers.
Clock control was Denver's biggest enemy. San Diego wasn't moving the ball through the air on big plays, but continually ground out first downs that took large chunks off the clock. Long passing plays never materialized for the Chargers, but it didn't matter.
San Diego's offensive success would be for naught if not for stellar defensive play that largely turned Manning into a non-factor. Denver's passing game was threatening, but lacked punch without Wes Welker in the slot. This was compounded by the return of second-year linebacker Melvin Ingram, who made an impact in his second game of the season after being activated off the PUP list.
The Broncos still control their fate entering the 2013 playoffs. New England is positioned to make a late push for home-field advantage, while the Chargers wait to see how the chips fall in the AFC.
Fantasy studs and duds
Mathews had an excellent night running for the Chargers, finishing with 128 yards and a touchdown.
Manning played well, but didn't make his customary impact from a fantasy perspective -- throwing for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Players left the field for both teams, but nobody was lost for the game. The Broncos and Chargers escaped Thursday night without any serious injuries.
Did they cover?
The Denver Broncos were 10-point favorites, according to OddsShark. Their outright loss means they failed to cover.
12/22: San Diego Chargers vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET
12/22: Denver Broncos vs. Houston Texans, 1 p.m. ET