Chargers 9

(4-1, 2-1 away)

Broncos 26

(4-1, 3-0 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:05 PM ET, October 6, 2002


1 2 3 4 T
SD 0 0 3 69
DEN 7 12 0 726

Griese, Broncos pick apart Chargers

DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Broncos figured out how to stop LaDainian Tomlinson: Stay patient.

Brian Griese

Brian Griese threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns, and Denver clogged Tomlinson's running lanes to hold the league's leading rusher to 48 yards as the Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers 26-9 Sunday.

Instead of aggressively pursuing Tomlinson, as most teams have this season, Denver's defenders hung around the gaps, waiting for him to make his move before collapsing on him. The plan forced San Diego to lean on quarterback Drew Brees, who wasn't up to the task.

"Wait for people to come to you, that's the key,'' Denver defensive end Trevor Pryce said of stopping cutbacks. "If you're overzealous trying to make a play, trying to do too much, that's when cutbacks happen. Wait for him to come to you, and if he doesn't run to your gap, now you go find him.''

Denver (4-1) moved into a tie with San Diego (4-1) for second in the AFC West. Both teams are a game behind Oakland, which is now the league's only undefeated team.

Tomlinson tied a team record with 217 yards last week against New England, but he was held to just 38 yards on 13 carries in the first half. That forced San Diego to go almost exclusively to the pass.

The Chargers opened the second half with 16 straight passes before Tomlinson gained 10 yards on a run four minutes into the fourth quarter. San Diego attempted 33 passes and ran the ball just once in the half.

Brees, in his first season as San Diego's starter, was 26-for-42 for 235 yards but was intercepted twice by Deltha O'Neal and couldn't get the ball downfield against Denver's two-deep zone.

San Diego crossed midfield just four times, with one drive ending on an interception by O'Neal in the end zone and another on a 24-yard field goal by Steve Christie. Brees threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Conway in the fourth, but the game was already out of reach.

"I think it is like the Orange Crush defense group of the '70s,'' San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer said of Denver's defense.

O'Neal, who was ejected for bumping an official last week against Baltimore, also returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that put Denver up 26-3.

"We made it a point this week in practice to get on him and have him step his game up,'' Denver linebacker John Mobley said. "He answered the bell.''

San Diego also had a hard time slowing Denver's offense without leading tackler Junior Seau, who had a sprained ankle.

The Chargers came in with the league's stingiest defense, allowing 9.5 points per game, but Denver kept them off balance with quick-hitting passes and an occasional hurry-up offense. Denver's 26 points were 12 fewer than San Diego allowed over its first four games.

"They were a step ahead of us,'' Chargers linebacker Zeke Moreno said. "We had some good play calls, we just didn't execute.''

Denver scored on its second play from scrimmage -- a 69-yard pass from Griese to Ed McCaffrey on a post route. McCaffrey found a seam deep in San Diego's zone and outran three players for Denver's first touchdown in the first quarter since its season opener against St. Louis.

After the teams traded interceptions, Denver moved 84 yards in 13 plays for an 8-yard touchdown on a shovel pass from Griese to Clinton Portis late in the second quarter.

Griese was 9-for-9 for 81 yards on the drive. He hit McCaffrey for 9 yards on fourth-and-2 from San Diego's 34 to keep it alive.

Griese hit 18 of 22 passes in the first half and finished 26-for-35

"I thought it was our best performance offensively in that first half,'' Griese said.

Portis got most of the carries with Olandis Gary getting limited playing time and Mike Anderson out with a sprained ankle. He finished with 102 yards on 20 carries, his second 100-yard game in three weeks.

Game notes

McCaffrey's TD reception was the 46th of his career, tying Rod Smith's team record. He also had six catches for 113 yards, his first 100-yard game since Dec. 10, 2000 against Seattle. ... Schottenheimer is 3-11 in games at Denver. ... O'Neal's blocked punt was the first for Denver since Ian Gold did it against Oakland on Nov. 13, 2000. ... San Diego was off to its best start since opening the 1994 season 6-0. Denver ended that streak as well. ... Denver has not allowed a point in the first quarter.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

Drive info: 1 plays, 28 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 2 plays, 72 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 1 plays, 28 yds, 0:00
Drive info: 2 plays, 72 yds, 0:00
sdSF2:52San Diego safety.
Drive info: 4 plays, 87 yds, 0:53
sdFG11:23Steve Christie 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 44 yds, 0:56
denFG0:19Jason Elam 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 12 plays, 60 yds, 1:53
Drive info: 11 plays, 78 yds, 0:34
Drive info: 13 plays, 84 yds, 10:03
Drive info: 13 plays, 84 yds, 10:03