The winning streak is over. Even with the defense putting up an amazing effort to keep the Bolts in it, mistakes and questionable calls doomed the Chargers in the end as they fell to the Broncos 27-19. The sequence of the game came with a little over three minutes to play with the Chargers having a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line, down by eight, and they threw four consecutive incomplete passes, even with Melvin Gordon running the best he has all season.
The game was not necessarily lost only because of that as the Chargers made numerous big mistakes with three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, a missed field goal, and a blocked extra-point. Philip Rivers probably had his worst game of the season with his three picks, but he was under tremendous pressure the entire game, and according to espn.com the 31 pressures that Philip Rivers faced were the most in a single game in the last eight seasons.
The Bolts game plan looked solid out of the gate as they scored another first drive touchdown when Antonio Gates caught the ball on third down and stretched the ball over the goal line to give the Chargers a 7-3 advantage. This would be the only points they would score in the half.
The Chargers defense gave up a field goal to the Broncos on their first drive but after that drive, the Chargers defense stood strong allowing a total of only three yards on the Broncos next four drives, all of them three-and-outs.
With the offense stalling, the Denver defense turned up the heat when they pressured Rivers into a quick throw that went through the hands of Tyrell Williams, right into the arms of Bradley Roby, who left Chargers in the dust, returning it 49 yards for a touchdown.
Leading 10-7, the Broncos took their next drive all the way to the San Diego 7-yard line before Melvin Ingram crushed Trevor Siemien, forcing a fumble, and the Chargers had recovered the ball, and the momentum. The Bolts used the turnover to march into Denver territory and moved into field goal position but Josh Lambo missed an attempt under 50 yards for the first time this year, and the Chargers would trail by three at halftime.
The second half started about as badly as it possibly could as Philip Rivers forced a ball into tight coverage, and it was broken up and deflected into the air for another interception. The Broncos offense took only two plays from the 10-yard line to score a touchdown to make it 17-7. Denver’s defense wasn’t done, as Philip Rivers attempted to throw a pass to Griff Whalen, but the receiver turned the opposite way of the throw leaving no-one there but safety T.J. Ward getting the easiest interception he will ever get, Rivers’ third pick of the day.
The Broncos threatened to blow the game open after getting the ball inside the 10-yard line again, but Korey Toomer kept the Bolts in the game as he stripped running back Devontae Booker as he reached for the pylon, and somehow kept the ball in-bounds for Jatavis Brown to recover.
The Chargers finally put it together on the next drive, starting from their 2-yard line Melvin Gordon gave them a tough 14-yard run give them some breathing room. This jumpstarted the drive and led to the play of the game on third down Philip Rivers threw a laser to the back of the end zone and Travis Benjamin tipped the ball with one hand to himself and somehow managed to keep both feet in for a 12-yard touchdown. The Broncos would block the PAT to make the score 17-13.
Denver would answer with a touchdown, and then force the Chargers to quickly punt to give the Broncos the ball back up 24-13 with less than ten minutes to play. Then the Chargers defense changed the game again when Casey Hayward made amends for an earlier dropped interception when he picked off Siemien and took it the house. The Chargers went for two and converted on a pass to Melvin Gordon but was called back on questionable pick penalty on Antonio Gates, and the Bolts would miss the further attempt to make the score 24-19.
The Broncos answered with big plays of their own with receptions of 31 and 40 yards to get the ball to the San Diego 4-yard line. Joey Bosa tackled the ball-carrier for a loss on second down, and the defense force an incompletion on third down holding Denver to a field goal, and keeping it a one-possession game.
The Chargers would respond with several good runs and a long catch from Melvin Gordon, leading them down to get to a first-and-goal situation from the 2-yard line and plenty of time to play. This is where things became confusing. With the league-leader in rushing touchdowns in their backfield, the Chargers opted to throw the ball four-straight times and ended with four incompletions to give the ball back to Denver.
Backed against their own end zone the Broncos appeared to be called for holding in the end zone, which would be a safety, but the officials gathered and moved the penalty out of the end zone. This would end up being the wrong call as the replay showed the holding occur in the end zone but the call was not reviewable, the Chargers would still force a punt, trailing by eight.
The Chargers would have one last drive, but it would be a forgettable one. The Bolts could never reach the Broncos side of the field as Philip Rivers was forced to throw quickly with seemingly instant pressure on every play. The game was sealed on 4th-and-9, Rivers dropped back to pass and threw an incomplete pass to Melvin Gordon, right before being pummeled, and it ended like most of the game went, with Rivers on the ground.
The Chargers defense put up a heroic effort and Melvin Gordon rushed for 111 yards, but fans once again turn to the coaching staff as another game slips away late. Mike McCoy didn’t have much to say about the goal line disaster, but now is faced with a couple of must-win games ahead before the bye week, if the Chargers are to stay relevant in a division that is running away from them.
The Chargers (3-5) will now head home as they play the Titans (4-4) at Qualcomm Stadium Sunday, November 6th at 1:25 PM Pacific Time.