The ill-fated field goal attempt from last Sunday’s devastating loss to the Raiders felt like a distant memory Thursday night.
The Chargers booted four field goals (with backup quarterback Kellen Clemens as the holder) in a 21-13 victory over the visiting Denver Broncos.
The win was the team’s first against an AFC West opponent since November of 2014, and snapped a 10-game losing streak in the division.
More importantly, though, the win provided proof that the Chargers are, in fact, capable of sustaining a fourth quarter lead.
And that, perhaps, they really do believe in their beleaguered head coach.
“Not a lot of people want to believe me, but I’ve been saying we’ve got a good football team,” Mike McCoy said. “Been saying it all season long.”
In all four of the Chargers losses this season, they led at one point during the fourth quarter. On Thursday night, against a team they haven’t beat since 2013, the Chargers led 19-3.
After a beautiful (really) punt by Drew Kaser that pinned the Broncos at their own three-yard line, Denver was called for holding on its first offensive play of the series. Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian was in the end zone so the result of the penalty was a safety, giving the Chargers two points, extending their lead to 21-3.
It started to feel like the football gods may actually let the Chargers win one.
But, naturally, disaster made its presence known.
Offensive lineman Kenny Wiggins, in on the return team, attempted to catch the short punt but the ball fell through his hands and the Broncos recovered.
Denver had the ball midfield and promptly drove 51-yards for the touchdown, cutting San Diego’s lead to 21-10 with 8:08 remaining.
Here we go again?
“I must have walked one hundred laps from end to end because you just feel like, ‘goodness, are we going to find a way to win this?’,” Rivers said.
After a three-and-out by the Chargers, the Broncos started driving again with just under six minutes remaining. Doom all but set in after Denver running back C.J. Anderson seemingly juked every Chargers’ defender on a 20-yard touchdown run.
But, the play was negated on a holding penalty and the Broncos were backed up 10-yards, facing a 1st-and-20 at the 30-yard line.
Then, Jatavis Brown, the fifth round pick from Akron who was thrust into a starting role after Manti Te’o’s season-ending injury, came through like no other Charger has this season.
On back-to-back plays, Brown blew up Siemian for a 10-yard sack, and then stripped Broncos’ star wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, causing a fumble that the Chargers recovered.
“At the end of the day, they were huge plays for us and I was happy to be a part of it,” Brown said.
The Chargers killed 32 seconds off the clock on their next series before punting again. But, that crucial half-minute forced the Broncos to burn two of their time outs, and they were backed up to their own 16-yard line after Drew Kaser’s 47-yard punt.
Needing at least two scores, Denver drove 56-yards and settled for a 46-yard field with 27 seconds remaining.
All the Chargers had to do was recover the onside kick and the game was over.
Nah, that’s too easy. The Broncos recovered but, fortunately, it just made for good, albeit maddening, entertainment.
The quintessential “Charger way”, except they won.
“Hopefully this can kickstart a run,” Rivers said. “Hopefully we can get two in in a row.”
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)
- Philip Rivers’ 178 yards passing Thursday night moved his career total to 43,094, passing Dan Fouts (43,040) for the most passing yards in franchise history. Rivers also passed Fouts for 13th in NFL history.
- Melvin Gordon rushed a career-high 27 times that included a career-long 48-yard run in the third quarter that set up a 21-yard field goal.
- The Broncos 84 yards rushing marked the sixth straight opponent the Chargers have held to less than 93 yards on the ground to start the season. It’s also the first time in franchise history the Chargers have held their first six opponents in a season to less than 93 yards rushing.