San Diego Chargers defeat the Denver Broncos, 35-14

The San Diego Chargers have followed this path so religiously they should pave it.

Out of the crypt … and back to the script.

Philip Rivers conceded Monday that this feels familiar, the Chargers starting to play their best football in late November — as evidenced by their 35-14 pounding of Denver — and methodically digging their way out of the pile of defeats from earlier in the season.

But, Rivers warned, "We can't just assume that we're just going to stay on a roll and find our way into January. We've got to make sure we do it, because we're in a lot of ways in playoff football already. We can't afford a step back at this point."

Teams that lose five of their first seven games aren't afforded a lot of wiggle room, and the Chargers — who now have won three in a row — had no cushion with a 0-2 record in the AFC West heading into the game against Denver.

The Chargers (5-5) amassed 400 yards of offense. They outscored the visitors, 35-0, during a stretch that lasted from the end of the first quarter to midway through the fourth.

"They're just a damn good team," said Broncos receiver Brandon Lloyd, whose team is 3-7, has lost five of six games and couldn't sustain any momentum from a surprising blowout of Kansas City in Week 10. "They're just one of those teams that stress you out. They stress you out with the schemes and the players. When we're in third and long, committing penalties and not executing our plays, that's when that team just rises to the occasion."

The play that triggered San Diego's scoring landslide was a fake punt midway through the first quarter, a crisp spiral from punter Mike Scifres to Mike Tolbert down the middle of the field for a 28-yard gain.

That got the crowd into the game and jarred the Chargers from their doldrums.

"It's not something that you risk if you don't get the look you want," Chargers Coach Norv Turner said of the trick play. "We got the look we wanted, we let it ride, and Mike made a great throw."

No one could match the passes of Rivers, who threw four touchdowns to four receivers — Darren Sproles, Patrick Crayton, Malcom Floyd and Jacob Hester — and finished with a dazzling 118.8 rating.

"Philip's just playing at such a high level," Turner said. "He puts the ball where he needs to put it."

That's key this week, as the Chargers have a short week to prepare for Sunday night's game at Indianapolis. They have beaten the Colts in four of their last five meetings.

That game will mark the return of Chargers Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, who missed the first 11 games as a holdout and is biding his time on the roster-exempt list.

"It's exciting," Rivers said. "He looks to me as if he's played the first 10 games of the season. He's obviously kept himself in great shape and has been catching the football from somebody, because he doesn't look rusty.

"I've been able to throw to him some in the bye week, and every so often we've put him in there because we've been short with numbers at wide receiver. Even though he hasn't been in the game plan and wasn't going to get to play, he's had to take some reps with our offensive unit. I think it will be a smooth transition."

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