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San Diego Chargers stun Denver Broncos in big upset

Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers' offense have been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NFL all season. They just lacked a signature win on a big stage.

That changed in the best way possible Thursday night.

The Chargers authored the biggest upset of the 2013 NFL season with a 27-20 victory in Denver over the Broncos. The victory gives San Diego's playoff hopes a huge boost, while putting Denver's hammerlock on the No. 1 seed in jeopardy.

The country saw Thursday what we've seen all season out of Rivers, our No. 2 quarterback in the entire league. The Chargers have a precise, ball-control offense that thrives on third downs. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead have formed one of the league's most effective one-two punches at running back. Mathews racked up 129 yards on 29 carries.

San Diego chewed up the clock by running 44 times and passing only 20 times. You don't see a ratio like that often, unless you are looking through 1970s box scores. San Diego held the ball for more than 38 minutes. When Rivers was asked to throw, he came through with accuracy and great decision-making. He's been a poor man's Peyton Manning all year.

The bigger surprise was the performance of the Chargers' defense. Denver's record-breaking 18-game streak of 25 points or more came to an end. The Broncos had only 13 yards on 13 plays in the second and third quarters combined.

Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano dialed up some blitzes that gave Manning problems. Third-year defensive lineman Corey Liuget made the biggest play of the game with a hit on Manning late in the fourth quarter, leading to an interception.

This was a stunning result, but the ingredients that made it possible have been simmering for a while. Denver's defense gets less impressive by the week. They are banged-up and searching for answers, especially in the secondary.

The Chargers are better than their 7-7 record indicates. They have beaten four teams currently in line to make the playoffs. They have lost only one game by more than one score.

This is a result that makes the AFC race a lot more interesting. Denver needs help from New England to get the No. 1 seed now. The Broncos have to win out to make sure they win the AFC West. And the Chargers are very much alive in the wild-card race.

When you have a great quarterback and a great offense, you have a chance to win any game. Denver has been the only offense consistently better this year than San Diego.

For one night, Rivers and his friends earned the spotlight.

*The latest "Around The League Podcast" reviewed our biggest disappointments of the 2013 season and much more. *

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