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Originally published December 12, 2013 at 9:55 PM | Page modified December 12, 2013 at 11:16 PM

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Chargers, Philip Rivers surprise Broncos in 27-20 win

Peyton Manning wanted more rest. He got plenty Thursday night thanks to Philip Rivers and a San Diego defense that slowed down Manning and handed the Broncos an unexpected and harmful loss.

The Associated Press

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DENVER — Now, Peyton Manning gets a chance to rest.

Big question: Does he really need a break?

Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers kept Manning on the sideline most of the game and handed the Denver Broncos an unexpected and harmful 27-20 loss Thursday night.

Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Keenan Allen and kept the Chargers’ offense on the field for nearly 39 minutes, keeping their playoff hopes alive while turning Denver’s supposedly easy road to the AFC West title and top seeding in the conference into something much different.

“We didn’t play well, didn’t stay on the field, didn’t have the ball much and, when we did, we didn’t do much with it,” Manning said.

The Broncos gained 13 yards on the 13 plays they ran after taking a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter. That covered four drives during which they went three-and-out three times and picked up a total of one first down.

“The longer you keep the ball and the less he has it, the better off you’re going to be,” said Chargers coach Mike McCoy, Manning’s former offensive coordinator.

Rivers finished 12 for 20 for 166 yards and improved to 28-6 in December. Ryan Matthews matched his season high with 127 yards on 29 carries.

After Denver’s long dry spell on offense, San Diego led 24-10, and though the Broncos (11-3) had overcome double-digit deficits four times this season to win, it wasn’t happening this time.

They cut the deficit to seven and Manning got the ball on the Denver 3 with 5:50 left. He moved the Broncos 30 yards in two plays with the help of a penalty. But the Chargers’ maligned defense produced a tough pass rush and forced a bad throw, which linebacker Thomas Keiser picked off at the Denver 33.

The Chargers (7-7) got a field goal to go up 10. Denver answered with a field goal but couldn’t recover the onside kick.

Manning’s final numbers were decent — 27 for 41 for 289 yards and two touchdowns — but padded during desperation time.

As most veterans do, especially this time of year, Manning griped about the short turnaround between a Sunday and Thursday game, the likes of which have become more common since the NFL started scheduling midweek contests for almost every week. Adding to the fatigue: Denver ran 91 plays on offense while scoring 51 points Sunday in a blowout over Tennessee.

“Did the (91) plays on offense take a toll? I can’t answer that,” Manning said.

Now, he’ll get 10 days to chew on it. Denver visits Houston on Dec. 22.

Cutler to start for Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will start Sunday at Cleveland after missing four games because of a high left-ankle sprain, coach Marc Trestman said.

Josh McCown has excelled in Cutler’s place but will go back to a reserve role.

The news on linebacker Lance Briggs wasn’t quite as promising. He participated on a limited basis and Trestman wasn’t optimistic about him returning this week, meaning Briggs could miss his seventh straight game because of a broken shoulder.


• Four people were stabbed in the parking lot at Sports Authority Stadium after the Broncos game. The Denver Police Department said one person was in critical condition. Officers had “parties” in custody and were not looking for other suspects.

• St. Louis Rams receiver Tavon Austin (ankle) sat out his second straight practice, and his availability for Sunday’s game is in question.

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