Philip Rivers needs more help from supporting cast

DENVER -- Considered one of the front-runners for league MVP through the first half of the season, Philip Rivers acknowledged with his team down 21 points in the second half Thursday that he felt compelled to make something happen.

"We weren't great, but I thought we moved the ball and fought like crazy to give ourselves a chance," Rivers said. "It's not a winning performance. It wasn't a terrible one."

However, even elite quarterbacks need supporting casts to help elevate the play of the rest of the unit on the field.

Facing perhaps the best team in the AFC in the Denver Broncos on the road, Rivers and the San Diego Chargers needed to be at their best.

They weren't in the team's 35-21 loss to the Broncos, putting forth a ragged and sloppy effort against an improved Denver defense that gave San Diego's offense little breathing room.

After setting an NFL record by posting a passer rating of 120 or better in five straight games, Rivers didn't have his fastball Thursday.

Against Denver, he finished 30-of-41 for 252 yards with three touchdowns. But he also threw two interceptions in a game for the first time this season. He was sacked twice and posted a 92.7 passer rating.

"He played as good as he could, man," Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. "Those edge rushers are pretty dang good. So for him to battle, move around in the pocket and he still was able to keep us in the game -- you have to tip your hat to him."

New additions on Denver's defense such as DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib were the catalysts for a swarming unit that made it tough for San Diego's usually potent offense to create big plays down the field.

The Chargers finished with five plays of 20-plus yards, but four of those came in the second half with the game pretty much decided.

With Ryan Mathews (knee) and Donald Brown (concussion) still out with nagging injuries and rookie Branden Oliver (36 rushing yards) ineffective, San Diego also struggled to run the football.

Since 2006, the Chargers had run for more than 120 yards 12 times -- including 10 times topping 140 yards -- in 16 previous regular-season games against Denver. But the Chargers had minus-1 rushing yards through the first quarter Thursday and totaled just 61 yards for the game.

"They're an aggressive defense," San Diego receiver Eddie Royal said. "Guys come up and make big hits. They play tight coverage, and they've got the two guys coming off of the edge [Von Miller and Ware]. It's an explosive defense. They make a lot of plays. The defensive backs have great ball skills, so when the ball's in the air, we have to attack it and just start faster."

The schedule finally turns in battered-and-bruised San Diego's favor. The Chargers will get nine days off before traveling to Miami to face the Dolphins.

San Diego's bye week comes after the Miami game, so the Chargers will play just one game in the next 23 days.

"It's not discouraging," Royal said. "It's motivating. We just know what we need to work on. We know how good of a team they are, and we know we can play with these guys.

"It just motivates us to go back and put in some work. I think we've got the right guys in this locker room to get ready to go and get a win."