Following a Ty Long touchback, the Denver Broncos took over from their own 25 and promptly went three-and-out after Adrian Phillips stopped Noah Fant short of the sticks on 3rd down. Colby Wadman and the punting unit then came on and kicked the ball away to Troymaine Pope.
A pair of short runs by Melvin Gordon were followed by an 8-yard pass to Mike Williams that moved the sticks. Austin Ekeler then got his first touch of the game and went for 8 yards to set up 2nd & 2. Tight coverage eventually forced a throwaway and brought up 3rd down. A coverage sack on 3rd & 2 ended the Chargers’ opening drive when Will Parks dragged down Philip Rivers.
After Long’s punt bounced into the end zone, the Broncos began their second drive again from their own 25. After a pair of shorter gains, the Broncos were staring a possible second three-and-out in the face, but Drew Lock was able to hit DaeSean Hamilton for just enough yardage to keep the drive alive. Pressure by Joey Bosa on the next play forced an errant pass. Andrew Beck took a screen pass right up the field for another 1st down on the following play. Phillip Lindsay kept the 1st downs coming with a 14-yard rush on the next snap. Lindsay got the call again after and picked up another 8. Kyzir White just missed intercepting a poor Lock pass on 2nd down. On 3rd down, the Chargers were unable to bring any pressure and the rookie eventually found his tight end to move the sticks again. Consecutive 2-yard gains by the Denver offense left them needing 6 on 3rd down, but they had time to think about it as Thomas Davis appeared to suffer a knee injury. An amazing catch by Courtland Sutton as he beat Casey Hayward down the right sideline gave the Broncos a 6-point lead that their kicker made 7 with the point after.
After unsuccessful runs from Gordon and Ekeler, Rivers attempted a screen pass on 3rd down but could not get the ball past the defensive line and Dre’mont Jones came down with the interception.
The Broncos took over in Chargers territory and the defense promptly gave up multiple positive plays and allowed the rookie-led offense to pick up a 1st down inside the 10. Two plays later, Sutton beat Hayward for a second score.
Tyrod Taylor was seen warming up, but Rivers returned to the field.
A 5-yard pass from Rivers to Hunter Henry ended the 1st quarter. The 2nd quarter was kicked off with a pair of Gordon runs that moved the sticks. Keenan Allen got his first action of the day with a quick receiver screen that picked up only 3 yards. Gordon lost a yard on his next carry to force 3rd & 8. Rivers’ pass was batted up into the air and he was lucky it was not intercepted. A remarkably stupid roughing the kicker penalty by the Broncos kept the drive alive. Big gains on receptions from Ekeler and Allen got the Chargers into the red zone, but a poor run from Gordon and two bad passes from Rivers brought on the kicking unit. Michael Badgley was good from 30 yards.
Denzel Perryman stopped Lindsay for no gain to start the next drive. An illegal formation penalty put them further behind the chains. Lock then sailed a pass out of bounds and on 3rd & 15, he had to throw underneath to set up the punting unit again. On the punt, however, Pope muffed it and the Broncos came away with the ball.
The Chargers defense really stepped up after the turnover and held the Broncos to a field goal attempt after Melvin Ingram made an excellent stop against Royce Freeman on 3rd down.
The teams then traded punts before the Chargers attempted to travel nearly the entire length of the field in just over a minute with three time outs. Williams chipped in with a 52-yard reception and then Ekeler took a pass 30 yards to the house to pull the Chargers back within 7.
With under a minute available, the Broncos attempted to get into field goal range, but ultimately were unable to get close enough and instead elected to let Lock just throw one up. He ended up completing a pass to Sutton well, well short of the end zone.
The Chargers received to open the second half and they looked like they might be able to turn the drive into points. A 19-yard run by Gordon and a key 11-yard 3rd down reception by Allen got the offense in at least field goal range, but on 3rd & 9 from the Denver 30, the right side of the line got absolutely abused by Derek Wolfe who came up with the sack that forced a punt.
Lock scrambled for 2 yards and Lindsay managed 3 more, but on 3rd & 5 Fant was wide open and Lock couldn’t get the ball in the same zip code. Drue Tranquill kept the drive alive with a stupid roughing the punter penalty, however. A pair of Lindsay runs gave the Broncos another 3rd down, but this time they needed only a yard to convert. Lindsay was met in the backfield by both Ingram and Bosa to force another punt.
Andre Patton hauled in a pass to pick up a 1st down and then Gordon ripped off a 10-yard run for another. Unfortunately, that would be the high point of the drive. A run for no gain and an incomplete pass gave them 3rd & 10. Okung got beat and held his man. The resulting flag wiped out an amazing run after catch from Ekeler that would have been another 1st down. On 3rd & 20, they ran a predictable screen that picked up a meaningless 6 yards.
Tranquill got the following drive started off right with a fantastic tackle for loss in the open field against Lindsay on 1st down. On 3rd down, Tranquill was there again to stop his man well short of the sticks and bring on the punting unit.
Starting from their own 38, Philip Rivers and the offense needed only 5 plays to score. An impressive run after catch from Ekeler netted 11. A well-blocked run by Gordon did the same. Then, Allen managed to get wide open and Rivers hit him for the 36-yard touchdown.
After a short run by Freeman, the Broncos went back to the air and Perryman made them pay for it by intercepting Lock’s pass intended Patrick.
A pair of runs by the Chargers resulted in a quick 3rd down. Needing 4 yards, they went empty backfield. Nobody got open and Rivers was sacked by Wolfe again. Badgley then came on to try from 55 yards. He, of course, missed.
Thanks to the missed field goal, Denver started at near midfield and needed only 20 yards to get into field goal range. Only one of the worst drops you’ll ever see from Hamilton necessitated trying, though. Brandon McManus, of course, easily converted from 52.
A short run by Gordon was wiped out by a negative passing play to Ekeler who got hit as he caught the pass from Rivers. After a pass short of the sticks to Williams, the Chargers needed to go for it on 4th & short, but they were unable to even break the huddle and ended up burning a ton of clock and a timeout. Dan Feeney jumped early and made it 4th & 6 instead. Because they’d already wasted their timeout, they still had to go for it. Then, there was another false start by Okung which seemed to kill any chance of converting, but Rivers and Williams bailed out the offensive line by combining for a huge gain on 4th & 11. Then, inside the 2-minute warning, the Chargers ran the ball with Ekeler for 4 yards then passed to Henry for 5. On 3rd & 1, Justin Simmons made a great open field tackle to stop Allen short of the line to gain. The Chargers then drained a ton of clock trying to draw the defense offside before calling a timeout and trying a 46-yard field goal. Badgley converted to tie the game.
Instead of kneeling, the Broncos elected to take a shot to try to draw a pass interference call. Hayward decided to let them have it. McManus then got a chance to try a 53-yard field goal to win the game. He converted as time expired.