Denver Broncos | News

Bolts bring more bite at Qualcomm


Relive the Broncos vs. Chargers series history with photographs dating to the teams' AFL roots in the 1960s.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** It's no secret that every team plays better in front of its own crowd than it does on the road.

Certain venues have earned reputations as more challenging places to play than others, with Denver, New Orleans, Green Bay and Foxborough among those. But Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego shouldn't be left out of that conversation when considering the Chargers' home-road splits this season.

A 5-2 record versus 3-3 isn't drastic, but the stats bear out that the way the team plays is different. Focusing first on the battle for possession, the Chargers' turnover margin of zero for the season (16th in the NFL) looks rather benign. But head into San Diego and that changes drastically.

"It's a division opponent in a very tough place to play," Head Coach John Fox said Wednesday. "They've played great at home this year. I think they lead the league in turnover margin at home."

In six road games, the Chargers have been minus-6 in turnover differential, including nine of their 15 turnovers on the season. Back in San Diego, they've nabbed 12 of their 15 takeaways and sit at plus-6.

The effect is more drastic when it comes to points: the Chargers' average point differential in seven home games is plus-8.1, with the two losses coming to the Chiefs (by three points) and the Patriots (by nine). Away from Qualcomm, that number swings nearly 15 points to an average of minus-6.2.

While the offense has been partially responsible for the dropoff in success on road trips -- with Philip Rivers and Co. scoring 3.2 fewer points per game -- the defense has been the far more volatile unit. When exposed to opposing teams' hostile environments, John Pagano's unit has wilted at times, serving up an average of 27 points per game and only twice keeping opponents under 28. Back in the confines of their own stadium however, Pagano and his group have allowed a very stingy 15.9 per contest, allowing no more than 24 in a game and even pitching a shutout.

"They're a really good team at home, especially on defense," Adam Gase said Thursday. "They amp it up. You see all their numbers, you look at their totals, and then what they do at home, it's almost like a different team. It's a big challenge when you go in their place and play that defense."

Last Sunday night, San Diego's D gave the Patriots offense -- which had averaged 37.3 points per game in its previous eight games -- plenty of trouble. New England mustered 23 points with the help of a blocked punt and a 69-yard TD after two Chargers ran into each other.

Despite taking four of the last five and three in a row from the Chargers at Qualcomm, the Broncos are just plus-11 in point differential for those five games. All four of the victories were by 11 points or fewer, and the only loss came by 21 in 2010. An 11-point victory in 2012 required a comeback from a 24-0 halftime deficit in what turned out to be the largest road comeback in team history.

For all of the Chargers' strengths at home this season however, John Fox's squad still has yet to lose a road game within the AFC West during his tenure, having gone 11-0 thus far. With the AFC West title on the line, something will have to give on Sunday.

Demaryius Thomas was back at practice on Thursday. Check out photos from the Broncos' practice as they prepare for the Chargers.

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