The Denver Broncos blocked a potential game-tying kick from rookie Younghoe Koo to finish off a 24-21 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football. It was almost a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback by the Chargers, who trailed 24-7 at one point, but the Broncos’ special teams came through with the big play needed to clinch the win. The first MNF broadcast ever called by a woman was an interesting one.
Final score: Broncos 24, Chargers 21
Broncos 24, Chargers 21: In need of three points to force overtime, Los Angeles turned to rookie kicker Younghoe Koo after a successful two-minute drill put them in field goal territory. This was Koo’s first field goal attempt in the NFL, and the pressure was definitely on. He made his initial kick, but it was waved off after the Broncos used a timeout to ice him. That managed to work as the next attempt was blocked, taking away what would’ve been a storybook moment for Koo.
Broncos 24, Chargers 21: In need of a big play to stem the tide from a Chargers comeback, the Broncos got the one-two punch of a 44-yard pass to tight end Virgil Green and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on the defense.
Unfortunately for them, the offense couldn’t take advantage of that red zone opportunity as the L.A. defense recorded back-to-back sacks to push Denver back outside the 30. Brandon McManus then missed a 50-yard field goal that should’ve been much shorter if not for the sacks. It’s a big missed opportunity for the Broncos.
Broncos 24, Chargers 21: Another huge takeaway leads to a touchdown by Los Angeles. First, the defense forced a fumble by running back Jamaal Charles that was recovered by Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward. That’s the second straight takeaway by the L.A. defense. Then Philip Rivers quickly struck back with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin that gets Los Angeles within a field goal. We got a game at this point.
Broncos 24, Chargers 14: Denver seemed to be on the brink of pulling away Monday, but Chargers safety Adrian Phillips came through with a big interception to make things interesting. Just a couple minutes later, Philip Rivers hit up Keenan Allen in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Allen got whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play, but Los Angeles is within two scores.
Broncos 24, Chargers 7: The Chargers took a big gamble on fourth-and-1 near midfield looking to keep their drive alive early in the fourth quarter. The team tried to run it up the middle with running back Melvin Gordon, but the Broncos were ready and set him backwards for a loss. The huge stop gave Denver the ball back in its own territory with a chance at a score that could put the game away.
Broncos 24, Chargers 7: Emmanuel Sanders gave the Broncos a lift with this impressive catch-and-run for a big first down. The wideout is looking for a fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season, and shifty plays like this will help get him there.
Denver managed to push the ball to the 1-yard line for first-and-goal, but the Chargers held strong to keep the game from getting out of control with another TD. Instead, the Broncos had to settle for a chip shot field goal from Brandon McManus.
Broncos 21, Chargers 7: Taking advantage of the strong field position provided by the Bradley Roby interception, the Broncos scored their third touchdown of the evening. Trevor Siemian found Bennie Fowler in the middle of the end zone on third-and-goal to capitalize on the red zone chance.
Over his first two seasons in the NFL, Fowler recorded two touchdowns in 29 games. He’s already matched that total in the first two-plus quarters of the 2017 season.
Broncos 14, Chargers 7: Bradley Roby jumped the route by Keenan Allen for an impressive interception of Philip Rivers. He got burned earlier in the game for a huge pass interference penalty, so this was a nice rebound by the Broncos cornerback. In two of the past three seasons, Rivers led the NFL in interceptions. He’ll be looking to avoid that fate again this year.
Halftime: Broncos 14, Chargers 7
Broncos 14, Chargers 7: The real star of the first half was ESPN sideline reporter Sergio Dipp, who awkwardly rambled for 30 seconds about Denver’s coach like a kid trying to do a book report without doing any research. He took it in stride, though, which isn’t easy to do when you know there are millions of people watching you on television at home. Dipp usually works for ESPN Deportes, but we hope he gets more chances on Monday Night Football.
Broncos 14, Chargers 7: Denver took advantage of some favorable field position to take back the lead. Trevor Siemian ran it in himself from 1-yard out for the first rushing touchdown of his career. He made a little move to beat star defensive end Joey Bosa to make the play, which is not a sentence we expected to write. It was a balanced attack by the Broncos as C.J. Anderson led the way with a 21-yard run, but Jamaal Charles and A.J. Derby also got multiple touches.
Broncos 7, Chargers 7: The Chargers got on the scoreboard thanks to a nifty pass over the middle to Melvin Gordon, who finished the play by diving over a defender and into the end zone. L.A. got a massive favor on the drive from Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby, who got busted for a defensive pass interference penalty that added up to 40 yards. It gave the Chargers possession just outside the red zone in one fell swoop, then Gordon did the tough work inside the 20 to get the TD.
Rookie kicker Younghoe Koo, who moved to America from Korea at age 12, made his first extra point attempt. You can learn more about Koo, the fourth Korean-born player in NFL history, here.
Broncos 7, Chargers 0: Denver’s offense came out looking strong to open the season with a 13-play, 70-yard that concluded with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bennie Fowler. Quarterback Trevor Siemian got a gift when Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward dropped a potential pick six, then responded by completing 6 of 11 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown on the drive.
There were no huge plays — Siemian’s longest pass was for 20 yards — but it was a nice, methodical drive by the Broncos to take the lead. Broncos Man is very happy:
Chargers 0, Broncos 0: Melvin Gordon delivered the first big play of the game with a 21-yard run through the middle of the Broncos’ defense, but the Chargers were starting from the Denver 6-yard line, so it merely gave them improved field position before punting.
On the broadcast front, the big story is the debut of Beth Mowins as the first woman to call a Monday Night Football broadcast. She’s been great so far, but ESPN did have a brief hiccup when it misidentified new Broncos head coach Vance Joseph before quickly rectifying the error:
Before the game
Monday Night Football’s season premiere doubleheader finishes up with a late-night contest between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers. These AFC West foes will meet up in Mile High Stadium with a kickoff time of 10:20 p.m. ET on ESPN, streaming online at WatchESPN.
The Chargers are starting over in more ways than one. Head coach Mike McCoy got fired after a 5-11 season, with Anthony Lynn taking his place. The team also moved to Los Angeles after 56 years in San Diego, and have a temporary home at the LA Galaxy’s StubHub Center while the new Inglewood stadium is under construction. An NFL team playing in a small soccer stadium will certainly be interesting to see, but that will have to wait a while with the Chargers on the road this week.
As for the team itself, the offense should once again be potent with Philip Rivers back for his 13th season. They’re also getting Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen back healthy, but first-round receiver Mike Williams is still recovering from a back injury that kept him out of training camp. The offensive line also suffered a blow when rookie guard Forrest Lamp tore his ACL. As always, injury luck is not on the Chargers’ side.
Fortunately, the defense is quietly improved, especially with cornerback Jason Verrett back from ACL surgery and pairing up with Casey Hayward in the secondary. Then there’s Joey Bosa, the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year. Despite missing four games with a holdout and hamstring injury, Bosa was a beast on the defensive line, racking up 10.5 sacks in just 12 games. He’s already one of the best pass rushers in football, and the Chargers’ most important weapon on defense.
The Broncos had a disappointing follow-up to their Super Bowl campaign, finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs. The offense was largely to blame, as average quarterback play and a bad offensive line led to the Broncos averaging just 20.8 points per game, 22nd in the league.
Trevor Siemian will be the starter once again after beating out Paxton Lynch for the job in camp. He’s not exactly a world-beater under center, but Siemian was much more impressive than Lynch, who isn’t making much progress after being drafted in the first round lastyear. C.J. Anderson returns as the starting running back, although he might have competition from Jamaal Charles, who won a roster spot after a good preseason performance. Charles is 30 years old and recovering from multiple knee injuries, but if he’s anything close to his prime the Broncos could have a nifty ace up their sleeve in the run game.
On defense, things are largely the same with the “No Fly Zone” returning nearly all its starters. Von Miller is coming off another dominant season with 13.5 sacks, while Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. are a formidable cornerback duo. The biggest absence is safety T.J. Ward, who got cut at the end of presaeson. There’s also an injury concern with linebacker Shane Ray, on injured reserve with a torn ligament with his wrist. Ray should be back in the second half of the year, but the Broncos will miss him in the early going.
If you like “revenge” narratives, McCoy is now the Broncos’ offensive coordinator and is facing the team that fired him this week. That will probably make things interesting in the post-game handshakes.
“If you were the head coach for the Chargers, and you got fired, and you play them on Monday Night, what would you want to do?” said wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, laughing. “I’d try to put up 100 if I could. I don’t know if that’s possible, but I’d try.”
Not possible, but that doesn’t mean Thomas won’t try.
The Chargers will win the AFC West ... if they stay completely healthy. But since that's as unlikely as a team losing four straight games while holding a fourth quarter lead is, I will default and say that the Chiefs will win the AFC West. Health is an important factor for the team that will win the division, and looking around, it seems like the only competent backup QB in the division is on the Chiefs roster.