The San Diego Chargers didn’t blow a late-game lead on Thursday Night Football against the Denver Broncos, and the Chargers locked up their first win since Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, beating the Broncos with a final score of 21-13.
San Diego has been losing solely because they blow leads late in games, and they almost did it against the Broncos. Denver finally got into the end zone for the first time in the fourth quarter, and a C.J. Anderson touchdown would have narrowed the Chargers’ lead to four points, but it was called back for holding.
The holding call and the nullified touchdown would turn out to be pivotal, as a fumble forced by the Chargers would give the ball back to Philip Rivers and the offense, preserving the win. The Chargers also sacked Trevor Siemian once and forced another fumble against the Broncos.
Denver didn’t cave in, though. With less than a minute remaining, the Broncos recovered an onside kick, and trailing by 8, they had an opportunity to get in the end zone and send the game to overtime with a two-point conversion.
The Broncos couldn’t get it done, however.
Denver was without head coach Gary Kubiak, who was taken to the hospital to be evaluated for flu-like symptoms on Sunday following Denver’s loss to the Falcons. The official diagnosis was a “complex migraine condition,” and Kubiak remained at home while the team traveled to San Diego on a short week.
Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis filled in as the interim head coach, and while he didn’t make any glaring mistakes, facing a division opponent on the road and on a short week of preparation without the head coach is a challenge, and especially factoring in that the Broncos just suffered their first loss of the season on Sunday.
In that loss, the Falcons may have given teams a blueprint to beat the Broncos. The Chargers employed some elements of Atlanta’s game plan from Week 5, keeping the Denver pass rush at bay with a lot of short and intermediate passes and forcing linebackers into coverage.
Von Miller went into Thursday’s game with 11 sacks on Philip Rivers over the course of his career. Miller has sacked Rivers more times than any other quarterback he’s faced, but the Chargers offensive line did its job on Thursday, holding arguably the most imposing pass rusher in the league to just one sack in this game.
With the win, the Chargers have ended a 10-game losing streak to AFC West opponents, which was the longest active divisional losing streak.
The Broncos snapped a different kind of streak, ending their rolling total of divisional road wins at 15 games.
Rivers had an exceptional start to the game, completing 10 of 12 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown, but slowed down over the course of the game, finishing 18 of 29 for 178 yards and a touchdown. Rivers established the franchise record for career passing yards during the second quarter, passing San Diego legend Dan Fouts, and that high mark for the Chargers now stands at 42,916.
With the way Rivers has been playing, and the way the Chargers defense stepped up and made plays to keep from blowing a lead late in the game, there may be some hope for Chargers fans for the rest of the season.