The Denver Broncos started the game with the ball after receiving hte opening kickoff. Case Keenum continued to look like Case Keenum with incompletions on his first two passes followed by a pass short of the sticks on 3rd down. In spite of a defensive penalty on the drive, the defense forced a three-and-out and a punt.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense took over on their own 20-yard line. It looked like they might go three-and-out themselves, but instead Rivers found Keenan Allen open downfield for a 27-yard gain on 3rd down despite Bradley Chubb hitting him nearly as he released the ball. Two more 3rd down conversions made it look like the offense might put up six, but a holding penalty on Mike Pouncey backed them up. Then, Travis Benjamin ran a wrong route and Russell Okung pitched in with a false start. Luckily, they were somewhat bailed out by Michael Badgley who converted on a 46-yard field goal attempt to give the home team its first lead of the day.
Taking over again now down three points, the Broncos offense looked no more effective than they had the first time and the Chargers defense forced another punt.
Long passes of over 25 yards each to Mike Williams and Virgil Green provided all of the offense the Chargers could muster on their next drive and while they were unable to find the end zone they did set up Badgley with another field goal try which he converted again.
The defense finally gave up a 1st down on the ensuing drive, but they still managed to force the Denver punting unit onto the field. Unfortunately, the special teams was fooled once again (just like last week) and they allowed a 1st down via a fake punt. This set up an eventual 41-yard touchdown run by rookie undrafted free agent running back Phillip Lindsay. Brandon McManus’ extra point gave the Broncos their first lead of the day.
Things appeared ready to get out of hand when Philip Rivers was intercepted on the following drive to give the Broncos fantastic field position. The defense stood strong, though, eventually forcing a turnover on downs when Kyle Emanuel and Jatavis Brown combined to stop the Broncos short of the line to gain.
Seizing this newfound life the Chargers offense started rolling immediately. An absolutely beastly run after catch by Melvin Gordon picked up 32 yards. Then, Mike Williams showed off his improving technique with a beautiful catch along the sideline. Finally, Rivers bought time with excellent footwork in the pocket before finding Allen for a 4-yard score. Allen celebrated by wearing a championship belt handed to him by a fan.
On the Broncos next drive they managed to look more like they had to start the game and the defense shut them down eventually forcing a punt. The Chargers attempted a halfhearted 2-minute drill with under a minute to go and the clock ultimately ran out after Rivers took a sack while looking to throw a Hail Mary.
Having kicked off to start the game, the Charger received to begin the second half. They got the ball rolling with a big grab by Tyrell Williams after a playaction fake. He took a hard hit, though, and was slow to get up before walking to the sideline without assistance. With Benjamin motioning across the formation, Gordon got the carry and picked up 8 yards on 2nd & 9 then picked up a new set of downs on his next carry. With both backs on the field, Austin Ekeler got the call on a reverse where he picked up the 1st down and then some. After catching a short pass, Gordon ran with power to move the sticks again. A defensive holding penalty kept the drive moving forward after that. On 1st and goal from the 8, Rivers threw an ugly ball to Gates who had his man beat in the end zone. A Dan Feeney hold on the next snap backed them up back to the 18. An unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Justin Simmons put the Chargers back inside the 10 and gave them a fresh set of downs. Future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates got open yet again and this time Rivers gave him a catchable ball. Badgley failed to convert the point after attempt. It was his first miss of the season.
The Broncos picked up 8 yards on consecutive runs to start the drive, but Keenum, hurried by Bosa, sailed an incompletion on 3rd & 2.
The Chargers offense was moving the ball well at first. Then, a drop by Virgil Green led to an ill-advised screen pass that Von Miller intercepted and nearly took to the house. Benjamin managed to chase him down from behind to prevent that. Unfortunately, the damage was done and with their field position, the Broncos punched the ball into the end zone thanks to the legs and power of Royce Freeman.
Keenan Allen had a nice reception on 1st down to set up 2nd and 3. Gordon was stuffed on the next play. Then, Mike Williams dropped a pass that would have moved the chains. Donnie Jones and the punt team then came on to give the ball back to Denver.
Derwin James kickstarted the Broncos next drive with a pointless facemask penalty. Two plays later, Courtland Sutton took a Keenum pass across the middle for 39 yards inside the red zone. From there, the defense had no answer and eventually Lindsay took a direct snap for a touchdown. The Broncos elected to go for 2, but they tried to run it with Keenum and he was stopped short of the goal line.
Two chunk plays by Austin Ekeler went for a combined 40 yards as the Chargers drove down the field. A false start by Sam Tevi backed them up for 2nd & 15. Then, a weird give-up of a run play to Gordon made it 3rd & 15. A beautiful screen to Gordon set up 4th & 1. Anthony Lynn elected to pretend they were going for it, but instead just wasted a valuable timeout late in a close game with potential playoff implications. Badgley converted a 30-yard field goal to take the lead back.
An absolutely beautiful play by Casey Hayward to knock a ball loose from Emmanuel Sanders resulted in a fumble recovery by the Chargers. The play, like all turnovers, was reviewed, and the call on the field was overturned. Still, it was a great play by Hayward. The next play went to Sanders again who caught that one for a new set of downs. A terrible holding penalty by Jahleel Addae then wiped out an interception by Adrian Phillips changing a turnover to a 1st down for Denver. Pressure by the defense on consecutive plays resulted in incompletions that necessitated a punt and the Chargers got the ball back inside 4 minutes to go.
Needing to run a successful 4-minute drill to run out the clock and win the game, the Chargers started with a 3-yard run by Gordon and a 1-yard reception by Green. Denver called their second timeout and the Chargers needed 6 yards on 3rd down to stay on the field. Antonio Gates came up huge again with another 3rd down reception. Gordon ripped off a 6-yard gain on 1st down. Then, on 2nd & 4, Gordon apparently did not know the play call and Gordon was tackled for a loss of 3. A game that should have been over was suddenly back on. On 3rd & 7 with a chance to ice the game, the Rivers lined up in shotgun and bounced a ball at Allen’s feet stopping the clock and leading to a punt. It was an unfathomably bad play.
Donnie Jones’ punt was fair caught inside the 10-yard line. The decision to field the punt was nearly as questionable as Rivers’ throwaway on 3rd down. Jeff Heuerman caught a pass underneath for a 5-yard gain and ran time off the clock. Sanders, however, made you forget about that with a huge play on 2nd & 5 that got them to midfield. Booker caught a pass underneath to get to the 45. With 37 seconds left, Tim Patrick caught a ball that put the Broncos well within McManus’ range. Shockingly, Patrick was called for offensive pass interference. It had appeared that Michael Davis was the one who made contact early, but the Chargers accepted the gift. Another big pass play put them back in easy field goal range and they managed to spike the ball to stop the clock and allow McManus to try it. He, of course, drilled it for the win, but Lynn had called a timeout, so he had to try it again. He made it again and the Chargers lost a badly played, badly coached game at home against inferior competition.