Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers made things interesting late in Monday's AFC West showdown with the Broncos, but the Denver defense came up big with the game on the line to seal a 24-21 victory.
Trailing 24-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Chargers rallied for 14 points in just over two minutes as the Broncos offense managed just 13 plays in the final 11 minutes, 58 seconds of the game.
Four Broncos drives resulted in an interception, fumble, missed field goal and a punt, giving the Chargers every opportunity to rally for their first win since relocating to Los Angeles after last season.
Down three points, Rivers led the Chargers on a two-minute drill to the Broncos' 26-yard line with two seconds remaining, setting up a potential game-tying field goal from kicker Koo Young-hoe. Broncos head coach Vance Joseph iced the rookie kicker with a timeout, then enjoyed his first career NFL coaching win as Shelby Harris blocked the second attempt.
BRONCOS ALMOST BLOW IT
Joseph's decision to start Trevor Siemian over Paxton Lynch as the Broncos starting quarterback paid dividends early. Siemian was accurate with his passes and made great decisions, even scrambling in for the Broncos' second TD of the game. In the fourth quarter however, the entire Broncos offense was stagnant. Their best fourth-quarter sequence was a five-play, 43-yard drive which ended in a missed 50-yard field goal from Brian McManus.
Siemian finished 17-of-28 passing with 219 yards, two touchdowns and one interception but was sacked four times, including twice in consecutive plays before McManus' missed FG.
RIVERS IN DECENT FORM
Rivers finished with a higher passer rating than Siemian (99.6 to 94.2), going 22 of 33 for 192 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. The Chargers, now under Anthony Lynn, tried to control the time of possession by feeding Melvin Gordon but the running back managed just three yards per carry against a makeshift Denver defensive front.
After losing the division title to the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time in six years last season, the Broncos will need consistent play from Siemian and their defensive front if they are to return to the play-offs.