DENVER – Most of the country was probably in bed by the time the Los Angeles Chargers made the second game in the “Monday Night Football” doubleheader interesting.
A little before 1 a.m. Eastern time, trailing the Denver Broncos 24-7 in the fourth quarter, the Chargers finally got going. A fluky interception led to one touchdown. A forced fumble led to a quick-strike deep touchdown from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin cut the Broncos’ lead to 24-21. What looked like a Broncos blowout was all of a sudden a close game.
After forcing a punt, a pass interference call helped get the Chargers into field-goal range. Younghoe Koo, who won the Chargers’ kicking competition in the preseason, came on for a game-tying 44-yard field goal with five seconds remaining. The Broncos iced him on his first attempt, which he made, then defensive end Shelby Harris blocked Koo’s attempt after the timeout. Denver held on for a surprisingly exciting 24-21 win.
The Broncos defense came through when it mattered. Denver had a big stop after a missed field goal with 4:07 left. Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby broke up a long pass to Tyrell Williams. Pressure from a safety blitz off the edge forced Rivers to throw quickly and he misfired badly on a deep pass. A receiver screen on third down had no chance, as linebacker Brandon Marshall quickly dropped Benjamin for a loss. The Chargers punted.
The Chargers got the ball back with two minutes left at its 38-yard line. They took forever to get a first down on that drive, finally converting a fourth-and-1. A pass interference call on Roby got the Chargers in position to tie the game, but then the field goal was blocked.
The Broncos’ defense provided the finishing blows, and through three quarters it was the star of the show.
As Denver built a 24-7 lead by the end of the third quarter, it allowed the Chargers just 115 yards and eight first downs. Melvin Gordon had a 21-yard run on Los Angeles’ first offensive play, and the Chargers didn’t have another play longer than 14 yards until the game seemed practically locked up by the end of the third quarter. By the time the Broncos took a 17-point lead, Philip Rivers had eight completed passes for 60 yards.
Early in the fourth quarter the Chargers went for it on fourth-and-1, and linebacker Todd Davis shot through the line like he knew the snap count before Rivers called it out, and blasted Gordon just as he was given the ball. That’s when it seemed like the Chargers were done.
The Broncos let them back in the game after that, but the Chargers couldn’t finish.
The AFC West might have plenty of interesting games this season. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders had two of the NFL’s best performances in Week 1. The Broncos and Chargers went down to the wire to finish the opening week. Most people probably missed the fourth quarter of the final Monday night game, but the AFC West teams should provide plenty of entertainment the rest of the season.
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