Steven Senne/Associated Press file photo
Steven Senne/Associated Press file photo
The San Diego Chargers have Peyton Manning’s number, and it’s not No. 18.
The Chargers renew their rivalry with Manning on Monday night when the star quarterback will bring the Denver Broncos to Qualcomm Stadium for an AFC West showdown.
Being in a new uniform with new teammates can’t erase the fact that Manning has lost five of the last six games he’s played against the Chargers since 2005. San Diego ended Indianapolis’ run at perfection late in the 2005 season and eliminated the Colts from the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
The Chargers (3-2) hope they still have the touch against Manning because a win Monday night would give them a two-game lead over Denver (2-3) atop the division heading into their bye week.
“We’ve had some great games, the Chargers and Colts, and Chargers and Denver, pre-Peyton,” San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I’m sure this will be the first of some more great games.”
San Diego’s run against Manning started Dec. 18, 2005. The Colts came in 13-0 and lost 26-17.
The teams played twice in both 2007 and ’08.
In 2007, San Diego intercepted Manning a team-record six times for a 23-21 Sunday night win. Two months later, with Rivers sidelined after tearing a knee ligament earlier in the game, backup Billy Volek led the clinching drive for a 28-24 win in the divisional playoffs.
Manning broke the spell with a 23-20 win at Indy in 2008, then watched from the sideline six weeks later as Darren Sproles scored on a 22-yard run in overtime for a 23-17 wild-card playoff win.
The last time they met, San Diego intercepted Manning four times in a 36-14 win in 2010.
San Diego safety Eric Weddle, an All-Pro last season, has had two big games against Manning. As a rookie, his interception at the 4-yard line ended a Colts scoring threat to help the Chargers beat the defending Super Bowl champion Colts in the divisional playoffs. In 2010, Weddle earned a game ball for his 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“It’s matchups; it’s raising our level of play, circumstance, team,” Weddle said. “You don’t beat Peyton and his team without a great team effort and controlling the ball. We just matched up well with him, and our level of play gets heightened, for whatever reason.”
Said Rivers: “I think every game stands alone. Obviously there’s a record there, but I don’t want to speak for our defense. Everybody knows what a challenge it is going against a Peyton Manning-led team. I’ve got to worry about that defense. They have a lot of game-changers over there: Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey, he’s been there forever. Those are the challenges we have to handle.”
Facing Manning now has division implications. Rivers is all too aware that finishing 3-3 in the AFC West the last two seasons is a big reason why the Bolts missed the playoffs.
A victory would give the Chargers a 3-0 division record after facing each rival once.
“This is as exciting as it gets,” Rivers said. “You play for an early lead and go into the bye at 4-2, that’s a good start. You’ve got to win the division. This gets us to three, if we can go out and win. It’s going to be tough, though. They’re saying the same thing over there: ‘We win this, and we’re tied after six.’”
A victory would give the Broncos a 2-0 division record going into their bye.
Manning wasn’t in a chatty mood about past games against the Chargers.
Asked during a conference call with San Diego media about how the Chargers would make adjustments at the line of scrimmage against him, Manning said: “For me, I’m playing for the Broncos right now. This is my first time playing the Chargers under these circumstances. If you guys see it as the same scenario, that’s fine. I just don’t see it that way. There is some newness to this game and some unknown in terms of what they’ll do. We have new things we’re working on and developing at the same time. I think it’s hard to draw comparisons to years past.”
Manning, who missed all of last season after having neck surgery, is more concerned with the division race.
“We’d like to be able to change a little bit of the momentum and try to put together a road win, which we haven’t gotten yet,” he said. “We’d love to find a way to get a couple of consecutive wins in a row, if we can, so I think there’s plenty of reasons to be motivated for this game, and the fact that it’s a division rival and you’re playing for a potential shot at first place in the division, which is certainly one of our goals.”
Manning, of course, always will be linked with the Chargers thanks to the 1998 draft. The Colts took Manning with the No. 1 overall pick, leaving the Chargers to take Ryan Leaf with the second pick. By the fifth game that season, when Indy beat San Diego 17-12, Leaf already had begun to implode on and off the field. Manning won his first three starts against San Diego, making him 4-5 overall against the Chargers.
Both teams are coming off disappointing losses.
Denver lost 31-21 at New England last weekend. Manning threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns, an effort that was wasted by three fumbles, including a strip-sack of Manning and Willis McGahee coughing up the ball at the Patriots’ 11.
San Diego had another befuddling performance under Norv Turner, losing 31-24 at New Orleans as Drew Brees set the NFL record with a touchdown pass in his 48th consecutive game. San Diego blew a 10-point, third-quarter lead.
The Chargers are expected to take the training wheels off third-year running back Ryan Mathews after limiting his carries the last two games in punishment for losing a fumble at the Atlanta 4-yard line in a 27-3 loss to the Falcons three weeks ago. Mathews ran well in the loss at New Orleans, including scoring on a 13-yard run.
The Broncos will be waiting.
“He’s an explosive running back,” Dumervil said. “He can do some things. We’ve just got to rat-pack him, swarm to the ball, and we’ve just got to get more energy and be more help on defense.”
The Chargers’ offensive line has been shaky in front of Rivers.
“We’ll get our opportunities, I’m sure,” Dumervil said. “First things first, you’ve got to earn the pass rush, so when that time happens, we’ll lick our chops.”
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.
Ed Zurga/Associated Press file photo
Elise Amendola/Associated Press file photo