The San Diego Chargers were up 24-0 on the Denver Broncos at the half on Monday night. Then Philip Rivers forgot how to play football, Peyton Manning looked like vintage Peyton Manning and the Broncos somehow won the game by double digits.
Mark the date. Oct. 15, 2012. The 30 minutes of stunning football we witnessed in the second half rocked the landscape of the AFC West. The second half declared a division champ and might end up costing two general managers and two head coaches their jobs.
Let's take a look at how one half affected an entire division:
Denver is 3-3 and Peyton Manning has yet to play a complete game against a good team. John Madden told us on SiriusXM NFL Radio before the season opener that Manning wouldn't be in his true flow until after the bye in Week 7. Madden was absolutely spot on. He correctly theorized that Manning wouldn't feel comfortable with his new teammates.
In the second half on Monday, Manning looked like that "sheriff" Jon Gruden likes to gush about on television. His touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley was Manning's first jaw-dropping "wow" moment since the comeback started. It was Peyton Manning's way of announcing to the rest of the NFL that after losing to Atlanta, Houston and New England, he was, indeed, back.
Manning is a repetition hog in practice, a perfectionist. He is starting to zip the football. You can see him developing an increased rapport with wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and his offensive line. We're seeing a tempo from the pre-injury days. He's only going to get better now.
Looking into the crystal ball, Denver has the recipe for success in a wide open AFC. Denver has a solid running attack and a strong pass rush. Manning is battle-tested and hungrier than ever to prove he can win after the neck surgeries. We will look back at Oct. 15 as the night Manning led Denver into the tournament.
Congrats to the Broncos on winning the West.
San Diego Chargers
I got Norved. Again. Here's how it reads in the dictionary:
Norved (v): The act of choking away a game in unfathomable fashion; a huge letdown.
Used in a sentence: In 2008, I got Norved when I picked the Chargers over the Panthers and Dante Rosario scored the game-winning touchdown.
The Chargers had the Saints beat two weeks ago, and blew it. We all saw what happened in Denver. I picked the Chargers to win both games. They had them. They got Norved. San Diego had a golden opportunity to take advantage of the Broncos while Manning was still rounding into shape.
Turner and general manger A.J. Smith are like Jason in the "Friday the 13th" movies. They've been declared gone, yet they keep coming back. Oct. 15 will prove to be the night that Turner and Smith had their fates sealed. They should've been canned last season. Somehow they were spared with a meaningless win in Week 17. They won't survive this time. It is time to change the culture and the message in San Diego. The Chargers can't keep blowing leads, games and seasons.
Oct. 15 is also the day that Philip Rivers' struggles took on a life of their own. Remember 2010, when Rivers was knocking on the door of being elite? That feels like a lifetime ago. With Manning coming off an injury, Rivers should've been the best quarterback in the AFC West in the first six weeks of the season. Instead, he continues to make dreadful decisions while refusing to check down. His footwork is awful. I don't think it is hyperbole to say Rivers is currently auditioning for the next coach of the Chargers.
Kansas City Chiefs
You could make a strong argument that no team in the NFL has played worse football this year than the Kansas City Chiefs. There's absolutely no excuse for it. The fans are livid. What's adding to the frustration is that this was the year Kansas City was supposed to take advantage of the weak division and rise back to the top. I bought in. What a joke that notion has become. K.C. is an abject failure.
The calls are coming for Scott Pioli's job. Romeo Crennel hasn't dazzled. The defense looks bad. The top draft picks on defense haven't panned out. Matt Cassel's been awful. If Brady Quinn's the answer, I'd love to know the question. Being adequate puts you in contention in the AFC. The Chiefs are horrendous. A win in Tampa and simply showing up in Buffalo could've given the Chiefs hope. Instead, it made the frustrations even more pronounced.
The Chargers getting Norved makes things even hotter in Kansas City, which could have taken advantage of the opportunity.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen watched "Monday Night Football." He sees the first-place team has three wins. Oakland has precisely one and face a must-win with the 1-4 Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town. This is actually very important for a coach trying to build a program.
I asked Allen about the significance of the Chargers' loss and the congestion in the division. He told us on SiriusXM NFL Radio, "All of the goals we had preseason remain." Allen can still dangle that carrot. It works even better after the Raiders played toe-to-toe with the undefeated Atlanta Falcons, losing on a last-second field goal from over 50 yards. Fake or real, the Raiders have confidence.
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.