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By losing at home to the Chargers – the first division loss by Denver since Peyton Manning arrived – the Broncos have likely surrendered the top seed in the AFC to the Patriots. The win keeps San Diego alive in the Wild Card chase. Really, the night had all the makings of the usual postseason Manning team meltdown.

Peyton was supposed to feast on the Chargers’ lousy secondary. At the outset of the game, he did. The Broncos’ opening possession touchdown drive couldn’t have looked more effortless. But San Diego, to their credit, adjusted well on defense and played ball control on offense, the types of things that are always described as the way to beat Peyton, even if really it’s just generally sound football in any case.

The broadcast team, always dutifully supportive of Pey-Pey, made sure to mention that Wes Welker’s absence really hurt the Broncos (as though Denver’s offense was terrible last year without him) and that the Denver defense was the real culprit in the loss. True, Denver’s defense is genuinely awful and had some especially egregious errors that kept San Diego’s offense on the field. The offsides penalty on 4th down in the third quarter, though it didn’t result in any points, gave San Diego an additional six minutes of time with the ball.

But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Denver had all of 10 points after the first quarter. Peyton’s killer 4th quarter turnover came when his arm was hit by a pass rusher. Which is nice, because it’s just enough of an excuse to get Peyton off the hook for the loss.

Meanwhile, even in victory, Philip Rivers has the best tantrums. Spazz on, you crazy diamond.

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