SAN DIEGO (AP) — It's been a rough two weeks for the San Diego Chargers, who not only lost at home to the best two teams in the AFC, New England and Denver, but saw thousands of Patriots and Broncos fans jam into Qualcomm Stadium.
The Chargers have gone from controlling their destiny in the wild-card race to needing to win their final two games and getting help from other teams to return to the playoffs.
The Chargers (8-6) play at San Francisco on Saturday night and then at AFC West rival Kansas City in the regular-season finale. San Diego is tied with Kansas City and Buffalo, one game out of the final wild-card spot. The Chiefs beat the Chargers in their first meeting. San Diego and Kansas City both beat Buffalo.
A week after losing 23-14 to New England, the Chargers lost 22-10 Sunday to a Broncos team led by Peyton Manning, who played despite being sick and then had to leave the game just before halftime to get treatment after he hurt his right thigh. Denver (11-3) clinched its fourth straight AFC West title.
The Chargers scored only one offensive touchdown in each of the last two games. Philip Rivers was intercepted twice Sunday.
"You definitely want to come out and play your best ball," wide receiver Eddie Royal said Monday. "You want to make a statement and win those games, especially at home. That didn't happen but it didn't take away from the type of team and type of players we know we have."
Defensive tackle Corey Liuget said the Chargers need to learn from the losses and move on.
"We always know we can play with the best of them, but in order to be the best, to be considered one of the top three to five teams in the NFL, you've got to beat the best and we didn't prove that the last two weeks," he said. "We tip our hats to those two teams and continue to move on."
The Broncos also scored only one touchdown Sunday but got five field goals from Connor Barth. San Diego's Nick Novak made one field goal but had one attempt blocked and had another attempt go off the left upright.
The Broncos got inside the Chargers 10 on consecutive drives in the first half but had to settle for field goals each time.
"If you play red-area defense the way our defense was playing the last couple of game we should win these games," coach Mike McCoy said. "But it's a team game."
McCoy said he believes the Chargers can beat any team in the league.
"What you have to do against the really good teams is you've got to make the most of every possession, in all phases, and we gave a good team a number of extra opportunities — missed field goals, turnovers, third-down conversions defensively," McCoy said. "You give them another opportunity to do what they do and there's a reason why they're at the top."
McCoy confirmed that inside linebacker Donald Butler has a dislocated left elbow and said he was awaiting test results. Butler was hurt after being blocked by Manning on a run by C.J. Anderson. Butler could be a candidate for season-ending injured reserve.