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Week 2 Game Recap: San Diego Chargers 38, Denver Broncos 39

What you need to know

San Diego Chargers

Star RB LaDainian Tomlinson came into the game with a sprained toe that he suffered in Week 1. He re-injured it during this game and was checked out on the sideline. Tomlinson returned to play sparingly, though he didn't see an offensive touch in the fourth quarter.

After starter LaDainian Tomlinson reinjured his toe, backup Darren Sproles put the Chargers on his back. He tied a team record with a 103 yard kick return touchdown and added another 125 yards from scrimmage on just nine touches (including a 66 yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter).

QB Philip Rivers continued his ascension into the NFL's elite. After a rough start for the San Diego offense, he marched them downfield for several second half scoring drives and put up some gaudy numbers to match Denver QB Jay Cutler.

WR Chris Chambers hauled in two more touchdown passes from Rivers, and the two seem to be developing quite a rapport. He has now scored in each of his last four games dating back to last season.

Denver Broncos

WR Brandon Marshall made up for lost time after missing last week's game and simply could not be covered by the Chargers. He set a Denver team record with a whopping 18 receptions on mostly short and intermediate routes.

QB Jay Cutler is unquestionably the leader of this team and played extremely well to move the ball. He did have two costly turnovers in the red zone, though he was bailed out of one by an official's error. For the most part, however, he showed terrific poise and arm strength.

TE Tony Scheffler had a coming out party of sorts in the first half. He scored twice in the second quarter to help get the Denver offense going, and they didn't look back from there.

What you ought to know

QB Philip Rivers, Pass: 21 - 33 - 377 - 3 TD / 1 INT

Rivers truly appears to be coming into his own in his third full season as the team's starter. It helped that he was given ample time to throw, but even when he wasn't given a ton of time he was able to improvise well and elude the oncoming rush. He was sacked just once and intercepted once, though the interception was controversial. Rivers appeared to have connected with Chris Chambers for a reception, but as Chambers was tackled by CB Champ Bailey, the ball came loose and Bailey recovered. The ruling on the field was questionable at best, as it appeared that Chambers' arm was already down prior to the ball coming out. Unfortunately for Rivers and the Chargers, the replay equipment had malfunctioned and the officials were unable to view a replay for the challenge. The call stood, and it was ruled an interception since it was determined that Chambers had never maintained possession of the football.

Later in the first quarter, Rivers overthrew a wide open Chris Chambers in the end zone for what would have been an easy score. Despite these setbacks and the early game woes of the San Diego offense, Rivers was able to regroup the team and lead them on several first half scoring drives to get the team back in the game. The San Diego offense didn't miss a beat when LaDainian Tomlinson went out of the lineup; they simply took to the air more. That is perhaps the biggest difference of this Charger team. If Tomlinson is ineffective or injured, they can still move the football because the passing game has been so outstanding. His long touchdown pass to Chambers later in the first half was a thing of beauty, as the ball was perfectly placed just beyond CB Champ Bailey. Rivers' stats were certainly helped along by his teammates in the second half. FB Mike Tolbert took a simple circle pass and turned it upfield for a 67 yard gain. RB Darren Sproles grabbed a screen pass and took off for a 66 yard score. And Chambers added a second touchdown displaying remarkable body control in reaching up and over the defender to snatch the ball out of his grasp for the score.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Rush: 10 - 26 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (2 targets)

Tomlinson, who suffered a sprained toe in last week's loss against the Panthers, was in and out of the lineup for much of the afternoon. He appeared to re-injure the toe trying to block LB Boss Bailey, though it could have conceivably happened on any number of plays. Denver was getting a great push up front from the defensive line, but it didn't help that Tomlinson seemed to lack an ability to really drive back at them. He lacked that burst that we typically see from him, and wasn't very effective. He spent much of the second quarter on the bench with his shoe off as the training staff checked out his toe. He returned for the third quarter, but was again largely ineffective. He'll be re-evaluated during the week to see if there is anything that should be a concern, and we'll of course keep on top of it for you. In the meantime, Tomlinson's backup, Darren Sproles, should already be on a roster in every league but just in case he's not he'll certainly be a waiver priority this week.

RB Darren Sproles, Rush: 7 - 53 - 0, Rec: 2 - 72 - 1 (2 targets)

There aren't enough superlatives to adequately describe how good Darren Sproles looked with the ball in his hands. As if a 103 yard kick return touchdown to tie a team record wasn't enough, he provided more than adequate relief in place of injured LaDainian Tomlinson. Sproles picked up 125 yards from scrimmage on just nine offensive touches, most of the yardage coming in spectacular fashion. He stole back the momentum with the return touchdown, which really provided the spark to get San Diego back in the game. And he consistently looked to have a better burst off the line than Tomlinson. At no time was that more evident than on his 66 yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter. Sproles took a simple screen and turned upfield like he was shot from a cannon. The Denver defenders appeared to badly underestimate his acceleration, as several players appeared to have an angle on a tackle only to watch him fly right by them. His afternoon could have been even more spectacular had he not lost a long gain due to a penalty. He sprinted upfield for nearly fifty yards, but a holding penalty downfield by WR Chris Chambers wiped out much of the run and Sproles had to settle for a 15 yard gain. With the news on Tomlinson so up in the air, Sproles is clearly a player to keep an eye on. During the preseason, most were unsure who would receive the lion's share of the work between Sproles and Jacob Hester if Tomlinson were to get hurt. Sproles saw twelve touches in this game to Hester's zero, so that question has been answered rather emphatically.

RB Mike Tolbert, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 2 - 68 - 0 (2 targets)

The little used fullback caught a simple circle pass over the middle and turned it upfield for a huge gain of 67 yards. In a game that featured 77 points and nearly 1,000 yards worth of yards from scrimmage, it's a bit surprising to see that a 243 pound fullback turned in the game's longest play. He's not likely to have many more 67 yard receptions the rest of the way, but could be leaned on a bit more in the passing game if Tomlinson isn't at full strength over the next few games.

WR Vincent Jackson, Rec: 6 - 73 - 0 (8 targets)

Jackson's contributions were somewhat sporadic, though he did catch a team-high six passes on the day. He caught passes in bunches it seemed, and then almost disappeared from the offense for stretches. The passes were spread around fairly evenly amongst the San Diego receivers, so he only saw one pass head his way in the end zone.

WR Chris Chambers, Rec: 4 - 83 - 2 (11 targets)

For the fourth consecutive game, Chambers was able to find the end zone. He and QB Philip Rivers are becoming one of the league's better QB/WR combos, and this game was a perfect illustration of that. Despite some bad luck early on, Chambers and Rivers were able to connect several times on some big plays that made up for the fact that he wasn't catching a high number of passes. Chambers lost a reception early in the game when he and Denver CB Champ Bailey went to the ground fighting for the ball. Replays appeared to confirm that Chambers had caught the ball and was down by contact, but the ruling on the field was that the ball had been intercepted. Because the replay equipment wasn't working properly, the call on the field stood. Later, Chambers lost 18 more receiving yards on a penalty. But it wasn't a penalty on San Diego. The call was against Denver. The Chambers catch would have given the Chargers 18 more yards but would have set up a third and two situation. The penalty on Denver only gave San Diego five yards, but it resulted in an automatic first down. The Chargers opted to take the penalty and give up the yardage, so hopefully there aren't any Chambers owners out there who lost their games by less than two points. Later on that same drive, Chambers got wide open in the end zone but an overzealous Rivers overthrew him for an incompletion. Despite the early-game bad luck, Chambers settled in to have an outstanding game. First, he beat Champ Bailey deep for a 48 yard touchdown bomb. And later, he made an acrobatic leap of a short fade pass to the front corner of the end zone. He had to reach down and in front of the defender to snag the ball out of the air on the play, and he made it look easy.

WR Legedu Naanee, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (3 targets)

Naanee's big contributions to this game were that he failed to haul in a pass intended for him in the end zone, but later caught the two point conversion that put the Chargers up by seven points. He wasn't a huge factor in the passing attack, however.

TE Antonio Gates, Rec: 4 - 61 - 0 (7 targets)

It could just be that Gates is still at less than 100%, but after two games it appears that the Chargers are focusing more on getting the ball into the hands of the wide receivers than they are to Gates. He's still an integral part of this offense, but his contributions may be more quality than quantity, at least for the time being. He was targeted just once deep down the field, and the pass was nowhere within reach for him. He also wasn't thrown to once down near the end zone, typically a staple of Gates' game.

PK Nate Kaeding 3 - 3 FG, 3 - 3 XP, 12 points

Kaeding connected on three chip shot field goals (34, 21, 28), but what was more noteworthy was how many kickoffs he put into the end zone for touchbacks. Kaeding kicked off eight times in this game. Six of those kicks went for touchbacks, with the other two going into the end zone but being returned anyway. It could have been the thin air of Denver, or perhaps Kaeding's leg strength is much-improved over past seasons. If it's the latter, that can only help him in terms of fantasy value.

SD Rush Defense

Lost in all of the madness of Jay Cutler's 350 yard performance and the game's wild finish is the fact that Denver ran the ball exceptionally well against the Chargers. Denver rushers carried 24 times for 145 yards (6.0 YPC) and a touchdown. Some more very poor tackling by San Diego defenders constantly allowed Bronco rushers to pick up several yards after contact on nearly every play. More significantly, the Chargers over pursuit of the run game was absolutely killing them on several occasions. Denver got a great push up front from the offensive line, and San Diego looked very poor in this aspect. The most glaring example of this was in the second quarter. Facing a second and 24 situation, Selvin Young took the handoff to his right. He stopped momentarily, allowing several Charger defenders to over pursue right by him. He quickly changed direction and scampered the other way for a 49 yard gain on a drive that eventually led to a field goal.

SD Pass Defense

It's difficult to play much worse in any one phase of the game than the Chargers did in this regard. They did intercept Jay Cutler once, on a ball thrown directly at Antoine Cason in the end zone. But they failed to sack him at all, and didn't really come all that close, either. It's difficult to play well when your best defensive player, All-Pro CB Antonio Cromartie, is being repeatedly torched by the opposition's best player. Cromartie had a game he very likely wants to forget all about. Among his many lowlights: he dropped a sure interception in the third quarter, he was whistled for two penalties, he allowed the Brandon Marshall touchdown late in the first half, he missed several tackles, and the man he was covering for most of the game (the aforementioned Marshall) hauled in a team-record 18 passes for 166 yards. The eighteen receptions represented the second-highest single game total in league history, and was just two off the all-time mark held by Terrell Owens. The San Diego secondary was very nearly bailed out by a Jay Cutler gaffe late in the fourth quarter, but some bad luck and an unfortunate decision by the referee ensured that they would ultimately be the goats in this contest. Cutler rolled out and dropped the ball while attempting to pass, resulting in what appeared to be a game-clinching fumble. San Diego recovered, but due to a mistaken call by an official, the Broncos retained possession. Two plays later, Eddie Royal beat the Chargers for a touchdown, and Royal again beat several defenders on the ensuing two point conversion try. CB Quentin Jammer limped off the field early in the third quarter, but returned to play the ensuing defensive series.

QB Jay Cutler, Pass: 36 - 50 - 350 - 4 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 6 - 0

Cutler is the hero of the game after throwing for 350 yards and four touchdown passes, including the game-winning two point conversion with just :24 left in the game. But he could have just as easily been remembered as the goat, if not for a costly turnover and an official's mistaken call that saved him from a second one. Throughout the contest, Cutler essentially had his way with the San Diego secondary. He connected with WR Brandon Marshall a whopping 18 times as Marshall shattered the Denver record for receptions in a single game. Cutler also rediscovered his TE Tony Scheffler, tossing two touchdowns his way in the first half. He showed great awareness at all times, particularly on a third quarter pass. He fumbled the ball in the backfield, but had the wherewithal to calmly pick it up and actually complete a pass despite the oncoming rush. About the only blemish anyone could have pointed to on his ledger was a shot that the CBS cameras caught of him on the sideline. After the Denver defense had allowed a key third down conversion, Cutler looked visibly ticked off. It may be reading too much into it, but it could be perceived as showing up his defense if Cutler is going to be so outward with his frustrations when they don't do their jobs. Aside from that possibly benign instance, he had a nearly flawless afternoon. Until the fourth quarter, that is. He threw an interception in the San Diego end zone on a pass intended for Eddie Royal. It was a bad read by Cutler and a very poor decision. The Chargers quickly turned that turnover into a touchdown, and the lead. Cutler then led Denver on a late drive in the fourth quarter with Denver trailing 38-31. Facing a second down at the doorstep of the San Diego end zone, Cutler rolled out and attempted to throw a pass to Michael Pittman in the flat. Cutler wound up, but the ball slipped out of his hands. San Diego recovered the ball, seemingly ending the game. Referee Ed Hochuli, however, had blown his whistle to signify an incomplete pass. Despite the fact that the ball was very clearly fumbled (or at the very least a backward lateral, essentially the same as a fumble), it was ruled incomplete -- admittedly a mistake according to Hochuli. With new life, Cutler found WR Eddie Royal in the end zone for the score and Royal again on the next play for the eventual game-winning two pointer.

RB Selvin Young, Rush: 8 - 78 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (2 targets)

Young, unlike Andre Hall and Michael Pittman, had one big gain that set him apart in this contest. For the most part, the Broncos picked up several yards here and several yards there without many huge gains. Young was the only one of the three to actually get loose for a long run, though it was more a case of the Chargers playing poor defense than anything spectacular Young did. He ran to his right and was met by a sea of tacklers. Fortunately for Young, that sea of tacklers was mostly made up of players who were in the process of badly over pursuing him and in the process of losing their containment of him on the back side. So he changed direction, turned upfield, and had himself an easy 49 yard run.

RB Michael Pittman, Rush: 7 - 30 - 1

Pittman is very clearly the Denver short yardage/goal line back at this point. The first opportunity the Broncos got near the goal line, Pittman's number was called. And after being stuffed for a one yard gain on his first chance, he leaped over the pile and into the end zone for a one yard plunge on second down. On the eventual game-winning drive, Pittman was again given the opportunity to score from the two yard line, but was stopped short after a one yard gain.

RB Andre Hall, Rush: 7 - 31 - 0

Selvin Young was the more effective runner between the 20's, and Michael Pittman saw all of the goal line looks. So all in all, it was not a banner day for the fantasy prospects of Hall. He didn't look bad running the ball, but with only seven offensive touches on the day, it's tough to make a significant impact. If Hall isn't going to be a primary focus even on a day when Denver scores 39 points, one has to wonder when he will at all.

WR Brandon Marshall, Rec: 18 - 166 - 1 (21 targets)

No, that isn't a typo. Marshall, making his season debut after a Week 1 suspension, was thrown to an astounding 21 times. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that he caught 18 of them. He broke Rod Smith's team record of 14 receptions in one game, and came within two of tying Terrell Owens for the all-time NFL record of 20. He did finish with 166 yards, and 34 of those yards came on one play. Which means his other 17 receptions went for just 132 yards (7.8 YPC). That suggests, correctly, that almost all of the damage done by Marshall was on short and intermediate routes. Denver had so much success with those types of passes that it made no sense to do anything else. Marshall abused San Diego's All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie, all game long. On Denver's two minute drill to end the first half, Marshall caught six passes -- on one drive. He then capped it off by displaying some nice footwork to remain inbounds for a touchdown just before the first half clock ran out. He nearly added a second score late in the fourth quarter on his 18th reception of the game, but he was taken down at the San Diego two yard line. Any fears fantasy owners may have had about Marshall and rookie upstart Eddie Royal turning Denver's passing game into a 1A and 1B situation were put to rest after this performance.

WR Eddie Royal, Rec: 5 - 37 - 1 (9 targets)

Following his smashing debut a week ago, fans were eager to see what Royal would do for an encore. It took him awhile, but he eventually lived up to the hype. Statistically, he couldn't come close to matching what Brandon Marshall did (18 receptions, 166 yards). But he made two of the biggest plays of the entire afternoon, both on the eventual game-winning drive. To start off, he hauled in the game-tying touchdown on fourth down that San Diego's lead to 38-37. Rather than go for the extra point, Denver head coach Mike Shanahan opted to go for the two point conversion. QB Jay Cutler found Royal between several defenders for the two pointer, but unfortunately for Royal, he was tackled awkwardly on the play. He remained on the ground for a little extra time, though there was no immediate report after the game as to whether he had suffered an injury.

WR Brandon Stokley, Rec: 3 - 47 - 0 (6 targets)

Stokley quietly caught three balls for 47 yards. He wasn't heavily involved in the gameplan despite the fact that the Broncos threw it fifty times. That's mostly due to the fact that they had so much success throwing it to Brandon Marshall that there was no reason to go elsewhere.

TE Tony Scheffler, Rec: 6 - 64 - 2 (10 targets)

After a Week 1 performance that saw him catch just one pass and drop another that would've gone for an easy touchdown, Scheffler came out of the gate ready to roll in Week 2. He caught five first half passes, including two touchdowns, and forced the Chargers to make an adjustment to cover him. They did, and he had a quiet second half with just one reception. Still, the damage he did before halftime was significant. He showed great hands on the first score, and beat S Clinton Hart downfield for the second one. He and Cutler have certainly picked up where they left off last season as far as having a mental connection with one another, and that's more than evident in the stat line. He nearly added a third score in the fourth quarter, though that would've been more of a case of simply being in the right place at the right time. Daniel Graham had a ball deflected away from him and it bounded towards the back of the end zone towards Scheffler, but it was just beyond his reach.

TE Daniel Graham, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 (5 targets)

Graham actually saw a fairly decent number of targets, including once in the end zone, but it was very clear to see that he is predominantly a blocker in this offense while Tony Scheffler is the pass catching tight end.

PK Matt Prater 1 - 1 FG, 4 - 4 XP, 7 points

Prater's only field goal attempt of the game came from 52 yards out. He didn't exactly crush it through the uprights, but it got through with a few yards of leeway on the end of it.

DEN Rush Defense

Surprisingly, Denver was very effective at containing RB LaDainian Tomlinson early on. When Tomlinson went to the bench in the second quarter with a reoccurrence of his toe injury, it became a little clearer as to why the Broncos had success. Tomlinson's backup, undersized Darren Sproles, rolled for 53 yards on seven carries. That doesn't necessarily mean that Tomlinson would've been successful if he had been healthy, but it's likely that he would've mustered up more than 26 yards on ten carries. Still, the Broncos got a very good push up front from the defensive line and linebacking crew. That, coupled with the fact that Denver jumped out to such an early lead, really helped turn the Chargers into a one dimensional passing offense, which obviously made it easier to slow the run game.

DEN Pass Defense

Despite the presence of cornerbacks like Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, the Broncos had a ton of trouble keeping the San Diego receivers in check. WR Chris Chambers was open all over the field against Bailey, and the Chargers almost seemed to make it a point to attack Bailey's side of the field whenever possible. It helped that Rivers was being afforded a ton of time to throw the ball, as the Broncos had very little in the way of a pass rush against him. Bailey was credited with an interception, though it's very much up for debate as to whether or not he should've had one. While covering Chambers, Bailey tried ripping the ball loose. Chambers appeared to be down before the ball came loose, but the ruling on the field was an interception. The Chargers challenged the call, but the replay booth wasn't working properly within the allotted two minute timeframe, and so the call had to stand.