Chargers lead Broncos 24-10 after 3rd quarter

Associated Press
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San Diego Chargers strong safety Marcus Gilchrist (38) celebrates after sacking Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) in the second quarter of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DENVER (AP) — Ryan Mathews scampered around the corner for a 23-yard scoring run, Philip Rivers threw two TD passes to Keenan Allen and the San Diego Chargers led the Denver Broncos 24-10 after three quarters Thursday night.

Mathews increased the Chargers' lead when he broke outside early in the third quarter, shed Von Miller's tackle attempt and raced pretty much untouched the rest of the way.

Before Mathews' run, San Diego did most of its damage through the air as Rivers hooked up with Allen on a 19-yard pass to tie it early in the second quarter and again on a 10-yard fade route just before halftime.

Allen is having quite an inaugural season, with 63 catches for 931 yards. He was 70 yards away from tying the club record for yards receiving by a rookie set by John Jefferson in 1978.

Rivers efficiently directed the offense and controlled the clock, which kept Peyton Manning and his explosive offensive on the sideline for large chunks of time.

San Diego's much-maligned defense did its part, too. After surrendering 127 yards and 10 points on the opening two drives, the Chargers stiffened up, surrendering just 26 yards and no points.

Manning threw his 46th TD pass of the season in the first quarter, leaving him four shy of tying the single-season record set by New England's Tom Brady in 2007.

San Diego won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. And yet giving Manning the ball first didn't work out very well as he efficiently led the team on a seven-play drive that culminated with Andre Caldwell's 15-yard TD catch in the corner of the end zone. Manning was 4 of 5 for 56 yards on the drive.

Caldwell was stepping in for Wes Welker, who sat out after sustaining a concussion Sunday, his second in a month's span.

Manning & Co. had much milder conditions to deal with after beating Tennessee 51-28 last weekend in the snow and ice. The temperature hovered around 35 degrees and there was barely any wind.

Still, Manning wore gloves on both hands.

So did Rivers, who guided the Chargers down the field on their first drive, only to have it stall out at the 20. Nick Novak connected on a 38-yard field goal.

The Broncos were without two defensive starters in cornerback Champ Bailey (left foot) and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe (illness).

This game featured two of the NFL's most prolific offenses, along with two of the most deficient defenses.