San Diego Chargers

Chargers exorcise some of their demons against Broncos

Philip Rivers, quarterback de los Chargers de San Diego, festeja luego de lanzar un pase de anotación en el partido del jueves 13 de octubre de 2016, ante los Broncos de Denver (AP Foto/Denis Poroy)
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

On a night Philip Rivers surpassed a Hall of Famer as the most prolific passer in San Diego Chargers history, the veteran quarterback also reminded us just how much parity there is in the NFL as his hard-luck team “upset” the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos 21-13.

Rivers threw for 178 yards and a touchdown en route to passing Dan Fouts in Chargers’ lore as San Diego used a strong first half to outlast the Broncos.

The combatants came in as polar opposites, with Denver arriving in SoCal at an impressive 4-1 and the Chargers 1-4 at kickoff, but some context was needed to explain that.

Things like San Diego losing its four games by a combined 14 points and the Broncos going to battle tonight without their head coach Gary Kubiak, who was resting after suffering a “complex migraine condition” during the team’s first loss to Atlanta last Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Falcons kind of offered up a blueprint on how to deal with the impressive Denver defense, ignoring the so-called “No Fly Zone” and instead exposing the Broncos’ linebackers in space.

Although Danny Woodhead is on a long-list of San Diego injuries, the Chargers still had the ingredients to run with Kyle Shanahan’s game plan, namely a very accurate quarterback in Rivers and two impressive pass-catching tight ends in Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry.

Of course, there was still a lot trending away from the Chargers, things like Denver’s obscene 15-game road winning streak in AFC West games and San Diego’s 10-game skid in the division, as well as its fourth-quarter ineptitude coming in, ranking 32nd in the league in the point differential when they take the baton for the final stretch.

Those trends, though, are only trends until they are not and with special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis running things as interim coach for the Broncos so Rick Dennison could focus on calling the offense and Wade Phillips piloted the defense, Denver went the minimal risk route with first-year starter Trevor Siemian, who was making his return after missing the setback to the Falcons with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.

Through the first four wins with Kubiak running the offense, the Broncos played it close to the vest as well, but not this close. Siemian averaged less than four yards per attempt in a first half in which Denver managed all of 60 yards with two first downs.

Despite the Chargers’ dominance early, however, you can bet the embattled Mike McCoy was checking his rear-view mirror for ghosts because it was still only a one-possession game with San Diego leading 10-3 entering the second half.

For McCoy, 30 minutes probably seemed like a hurdle the size of the nearby Symphony Towers, but Melvin Gordon did his best to exorcise some demons for his coach by ripping off a career-long 48-yard run early in the third quarter that set the Chargers up inside the Denver 10.

San Diego managed just three, however, so McCoy was still checking for that 18-wheeler approaching.

Two more Josh Lambo FGs, with new holder Kellen Clemens doing the job Drew Kaser failed so spectacularly at in Oakland last Sunday, gave the Chargers the biggest two-possession lead possible at 19-3.

At points in the fourth quarter it looked as if Murphy’s Law had just hit snooze and was a little late to the party, most notably when offensive lineman Kenny Wiggins botched a free kick after a San Diego safety has extended the lead to 21-3.

Siemian finally showed a little life from there and for a moment it seemed like the Broncos has scored back-to-back TDs when C.J. Anderson fought his way into the end zone with just over four minutes remaining.

The collapse was underway or was it?

Back at the line of scrimmage was a little yellow life raft for McCoy and the Chargers, a flag for holding on Russell Okung, the fifth holding call of the night for Denver, that took Anderson’s brilliant individual effort off the board.

Two plays later Siemian found Demaryius Thomas over the middle but the receiver fumbled the football and the Chargers’ misery was over, now affixed to a new host, a Broncos’ team that has all of a sudden lost two straight and is now looking up at Oakland in the division.

As for the Chargers, they were still fighting themselves down to the very end, allowing Denver to recover an onside kick in the waning seconds of a one-possession game, but the other shoe never dropped.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.

More of Your Chargers with Locked on Chargers Podcast

To Top