The last time the Los Angeles Chargers played the Denver Broncos in a season finale and then went directly in the playoffs forced us to get into the time machine and travel back 10 years.
The Chargers will travel to Denver to face a reeling Broncos team on Sunday and much like that December day in 2008, the Chargers will head into the postseason and the Broncos will head to the golf course.
This season, we know that. Back in 2008, at the time of kickoff, that much had not been determined.
That season, the 8-7 Broncos came to Qualcomm Stadium for a game against the 7-8 Chargers which, believe it or not, was for the AFC West division title.
The two teams were going in completely different directions coming into the game.
On December 7 of that season, the Broncos sat at 8-5 and the Chargers were 5-8. That included a 39-38 loss in Week 2 to the Broncos that was famously influenced by a call late in the game by referee Ed Hochuli.
The odds of the Chargers salvaging anything out of the season were remote, but after key division wins over the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs followed by a road win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chargers had put themselves in a spot to win the division.
That was only made possible because the Broncos had dropped two games in a row, including an inexplicable loss at home against the Buffalo Bills. Suddenly, they were the team with their backs against the wall, heading to San Diego.
The game, which was “flexed” to Sunday Night Football, wasn’t even close.
The first quarter was competitive and after a touchdown run by Tatum Bell, the Broncos took a 6-3 lead, but after Matt Prater missed the following extra point, it was all downhill for Denver.
The Chargers took a 24-6 lead into halftime but Bell scored on a 37-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter to keep the Broncos’ hopes alive. Philip Rivers and Co. turned it up a notch after that.
Rivers threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles before LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 14-yard run on the team’s next possession. The Chargers took a 38-13 lead into the final frame and just coasted from there, winning the game 52-21.
The Bolts finished the game with 289 yards on the ground, running for five touchdowns on the night as well. That made things easy for Rivers, as the defense also chipped in with two interceptions.
It was a dominant win for the Chargers, one which many saw as sweet revenge for the first game the team’s played that season, a game which many felt the Chargers should have won as well.
The Broncos’ season came to an end and the Chargers went to the playoffs. But despite an 8-8 record, they weren’t one-and-done in the postseason.
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Though they were four games below the Indianapolis Colts in terms of wins and losses, the Chargers were able to host the Indianapolis Colts because they were a division winner while the Colts, despite being 12-4, were just a Wild Card that season.
Still, few gave the Chargers much of a chance.
They always played Peyton Manning tough when he led the Colts, and that game was no exception. They knocked the Colts out of the playoffs when Sproles ran in a 22-yard touchdown in overtime to spring the huge upset.
Perhaps closing this season against the Broncos will bring this Chargers team even more good fortune.