Peyton Manning wanted more rest. He got plenty last night thanks to Philip Rivers and a San Diego defense that slowed down Manning and handed the Broncos an unexpected and harmful loss.
Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and kept the Chargers' offense on the field for nearly 39 minutes in a 27-20 stunner over the Broncos, whose easy road to the AFC West title and top seeding in the conference got an unexpected jolt.
Disorganized on defense and never able to crank things up on offense, the Broncos gained 13 yards on the 13 plays they ran after taking a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter. That covered four fruitless drives during which they went three-and-out three times and picked up just one first down.
By that time, San Diego led 24-10, and though the Broncos (11-3) had overcome double-digit deficits four times this season to win, it wasn't happening this time.
They pulled within seven and Manning got the ball on the Denver 3 with 5:50 left. He moved the Broncos 30 yards in two plays with the help of a penalty. But the Chargers' maligned defense produced some pass rush and forced a bad throw, which linebacker Thomas Keiser picked off at the Denver 33.
The Chargers (7-7) got a field goal to go up 10. Denver answered with a field goal in the last half minute but couldn't recover the onside kick and the Broncos lost to an AFC West foe for the first time in 11 games.
Now, Manning will get 10 days to rest and chew on this loss - the first regular-season defeat at home for Denver in 14 tries, dating to last September against Houston.