The defense sacked Philip Rivers four times, holding him to nearly 100 yards and one touchdown pass below his season averages.
Manning now is on pace for an eye-popping 5,776 yards and 59 touchdown passes while spreading the wealth in a pick-your-poison aerial attack. Just five NFL players have at least nine receiving touchdowns this season: Jimmy Graham, Calvin Johnson and a trio of Manning's targets (Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas).
Here's what else we learned in Sunday's game:
- Rivers had one of his least productive games of the season but still generated a 99.5 passer rating while checking to the run at the appropriate times. He's managing the game, seeing the field and using touch passes as well as any quarterback save Manning.
- Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead have excelled in their respective roles this season, but the Chargers have a miniature version of the Saints' situational play-calling conundrum on their hands. Because Mathews is limited primarily to obvious running downs, it's a "tell" when he's in the game. We suspect that's why the coaches have been hesitant to call his number on key goal-line plays. He finally ended a year-long home rushing touchdown drought with a third-down dive over the pile to pull the Chargers to within one score early in the fourth quarter. He also lost a 39-yard run to a holding penalty.
- Mannning has taken too many hits the past few games. Fill-in left tackle Chris Clark has allowed three strip-sacks since Ryan Clady's season-ending injury. Manning also took a hard shot to his lower legs that gave the Broncos a scare late in the game. He didn't miss a play, but said he was "pretty sore" after the game. Manning will be sent for an MRI on Monday, but it will be a major upset if he's not under center with first place on the line next week.