The Chargers played their first and only Thursday night game of the season, taking on the 4-1 Denver Broncos. After another tough loss last week against the Raiders, this week’s game was a desperation game. Either the Chargers pulled off a win, giving hope to their dismal season, or they lose and look to next season.
The game started with the Chargers receiving the ball, and their offense wasted no time putting seven on the board with a touchdown pass to rookie Hunter Henry, his third of the season. The defense had a great start as well, stopping the Denver offense on their first drive and rode that momentum all night holding the Denver offense to only 13 points.
On the Chargers’ second possession of the game, coach Mike McCoy had to decide to go for it on fourth-and-1 deep in Broncos territory, or kick a short field goal. I don’t know if McCoy feels his feet to the fire, but the conservative coach decided to go for it. Luckily for McCoy’s sake, Melvin Gordon picked up the first down. However, the Chargers’ offense would stall. Philip Rivers was under pressure constantly, and the Chargers had to settle for a 37-yard field goal, increasing their lead 10-0.
After holding the Denver offense to another punt, Travis Benjamin called for a fair catch but touched the ball making it live. This allowed Broncos’ special teams to recover, which gave the ball to Denver deep in Chargers territory. However, the Chargers’ defense put a lot of pressure on Trevor Siemian and forced Denver to kick a 29-yard field goal, setting the score at 10-3.
At the beginning of the third quarter’ Melvin Gordon ripped off the left side for a big 48-yard gain, putting the Chargers at the Denver 6. However, the Denver defense held the Chargers and forced another Josh Lambo field goal.
A big swing in momentum came with 9:27 in the third quarter. Siemian threw a pass to Jordan Taylor, who caught the pass but fumbled the ball, allowing Chargers linebacker Korey Toomer to recover. The Denver defense once again bailed out the offense, forcing a Josh Lambo field goal, putting the game at 16-3.
The game continued to be a defensive showdown which seemed to irritate Rivers, who was visibly upset the team had to settle for field goal after field goal. With 11:59 left in the game, the Denver offense was backed up into their own end zone, where Russell Okung held Joey Bosa, resulting in a safety, putting up the Chargers 21-3 and giving them the ball.
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Things looked to be in the Chargers’ favor, but on the punt Kenny Wiggins muffed it and gave the ball right back to the Broncos, and Siemian seemed to finally feel a little comfortable shortly after. With his newly found confidence, Siemian put together an 11-play, 51-yard drive capped by a Bennie Fowler touchdown reception, bringing the score to 21-10.
The Chargers’ defense began to loosen the reins in the fourth quarter and started playing conservative, helping the Denver offense get in a rhythm. Deep in the fourth quarter, the Broncos ran a draw play, and with shifty running by C.J. Anderson, he reached the end zone from 20 yards out. However, with a stroke of luck, the play was nullified by an offensive holding penalty, and on the ensuing play Jatavis Brown hit Siemian in the back field for a 10-yard loss.
Luck continued to be on San Diego’s side when Brown laid his helmet perfectly on the ball in the hands of Demaryius Thomas, causing a fumble in which the Chargers recovered. Unfortunately, the Chargers could not capitalize on the turnover, but they were able to chew up valuable time on the clock. By the time Denver got the ball back, there was only three minutes left in the game.
After wasting plenty of time on a dismal drive, the Denver offense settled for a field goal, setting the score at 21-13. The Broncos then attempted an onside kick, which they came up successful, giving the Broncos the ball with 27 seconds left in the game.
Every Charger stake holder was on the edge of their seat due to previous fourth-quarter meltdowns. Even McCoy was on the sideline hunched over with his head hung low, almost praying for a positive outcome.
On the final play of the game, Siemian heaved it towards the end zone for a Hail Mary, which Dexter McCoil displayed textbook football batting down the pass, giving the Chargers their first win since September 18th and only their second win of the season.
One big surprise was the good play of the Chargers’ secondary, who held Denver’s all-star receivers Emmanuel Sanders to only 40 yards and Thomas to 35 yards. Not only did the secondary play well, but newcomer Jatavis Brown ended the game with 14 total tackles, one sack and one forced fumble, getting Chargers fans excited about his future role on the defense. This game also held some historical implications. On the second play of the second quarter, Philip Rivers completed a pass to Henry for 12 yards; this put Rivers at 43,046 yards for his career, breaking Dan Fouts’ longtime record as all-time Chargers passing leader, while also placing Rivers at 13th in the NFL’s all-time passing yards list.
Next week, the Chargers travel to Atlanta to take on the 4-1 Falcons and Matt Ryan’s high-flying offense. This will be a real test to see who the Chargers are. Will they continue to make costly mistakes late in the game? Or will they find a way to beat one of the best teams in the NFL?