By Joshua Fischman
The Los Angeles Chargers’ comeback attempt against the Denver Broncos fell short, as L.A. lost, 20-13, in its first divisional game of the season. The Bolts scored 10 unanswered points to come within a touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Broncos’ early 17-point advantage.
On their first drive of the game, the Broncos took a 7-0 lead after a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Phillip Lindsay and an extra point by Brandon McManus. Lindsay rushed for 114 yards on 15 carries in the game, also recording 33 yards receiving. The opening drive totaled 75 yards on seven plays and took just 3:54 to complete.
After the Chargers failed to score on their opening possession, the Broncos scored their second touchdown on as many drives, courtesy of a 70-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who finished with 92 yards receiving on four catches. After the successful extra point, Denver led 14-0 with 4:58 to play in the first quarter.
Following two Chargers first downs, Philip Rivers was intercepted by safety Justin Simmons. The football was then dislodged by Chargers tight end Lance Kendricks, but the Broncos recovered and brought it to L.A.’s 42-yard line.
On the first play of the second quarter, Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu strip-sacked Flacco, and his teammate linebacker Jatavis Brown recovered. It was the USC product’s first sack of the season and the first forced fumble of his NFL career.
Following an intentional grounding penalty charged to Rivers, Chargers kicker Chase McLaughlin, who was signed Wednesday, attempted the first field goal of his NFL career, a 48-yarder, which fell short after being blocked. Ty Long had handled the team’s kicking duties for the first four weeks of the season in place of injured kicker Michael Badgley, but Long was limited to punting Sunday because of a sore plant leg.
On the ensuing Broncos possession, McManus was accurate on a 40-yard field goal, increasing the Denver advantage to 17-0 with 5:22 remaining in the first half. The field goal capped an eight-play, 40-yard drive.
With fourth and goal on the Denver 1 and six seconds left in the half, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn elected to go for it, and Austin Ekeler fell just short as he reached for the end zone. The ball was knocked out of Ekeler’s outstretched hands by cornerback Kareem Jackson and ended up in the end zone, preserving a 17-0 halftime lead for the Broncos. Ekeler finished with a career-high 15 receptions for 86 yards receiving. The 14-play, 74-yard drive was the Chargers’ best of the half and lasted 5:17.
After the Bolts went three-and-out to start the second half, they forced the Broncos to punt for the first time of the afternoon.
On the next Denver possession, the Chargers forced a three-and-out for the first time in the game, with the play of the drive being a sack by first-round pick defensive tackle Jerry Tillery on second down.
With 3:44 left in the third quarter, Chargers linebacker Kyzir White intercepted Flacco at Denver’s 7-yard line.
Three plays later, Rivers was picked off in the end zone by Alexander Johnson, the first interception of the Broncos linebacker’s NFL career.
Then the Chargers forced a three-and-out for a second consecutive defensive stand. On fourth down, defensive back Desmond King returned the punt 68 yards into the end zone to put the Bolts on the board.
After a McLaughlin extra point, the first point of his NFL career, the Chargers trailed 17-7 with 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
On the following Broncos drive, a third-down sack by defensive end Joey Bosa set up a 54-yard field goal by McManus, which hooked wide left, keeping the score 17-7 in favor of Denver.
The Chargers then marched down the field in just 2:08, with their four-play, 29-yard drive culminating in a successful 45-yard field goal by McLaughlin, the first made field goal of his NFL career. This cut the Bolts deficit to a single score at 17-10, with 6:52 remaining on the game clock.
The Bolts then marched down the field for a successful 32-yard kick by McLaughlin with 15 seconds left, but Los Angeles failed to recover the onside kick, ending the Chargers’ comeback hopes.
In the loss, Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams, who was listed as questionable entering the game, caught 6 passes for 74 yards receiving. Wide receiver Keenan Allen was limited to 4 receptions for 18 yards receiving. Bolts running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 31 yards on 12 carries in his season debut.
Flacco completed 14 of 20 passes for 182 yards and threw a touchdown and an interception, en route to a 94.2 passer rating, while Rivers went 32-for-48 with 211 yards passing and two interceptions.
The Chargers fell to 2-3 and will face the 1-4 Pittsburgh Steelers at home next Sunday night. Kickoff is at 5:20 p.m. PT from ROKiT Field at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Photos by Scott Padgett
Press Release Provided by the Los Angeles Chargers