Denver Broncos 27, San Diego Chargers 20
The San Diego Chargers looked to play spoiler against their AFC West rivals in the last game for the Bolts in 2016. If the Chargers could have beaten the Denver Broncos they would have fallen to the 5th seed, and the Kansas City Chiefs would be AFC West Champs.
Alas, it was not meant to be as the Broncos (12-4) would overcome turning the ball over 5 times, to beat the Chargers (4-12) in possibly their last game as the ‘San Diego’ Chargers. The Chargers went 0-6 against the AFC West this year, that is awful, seriously awful.
The Broncos locked up the #1 seed in the AFC after the Patriots fell to the Miami Dolphins, and have now won the AFC West 5 years in a row. The Chargers, meanwhile, locked up the #3 pick overall in the 2016 draft next spring. At least that’s kind of exciting, right?
If you tuned into the game today and didn’t recognize, that’s because the Chargers were missing 5 out of 11 starters on defense and 6 out of 11 on offense. They also lost three offensive lineman during the game, C Trevor Robinson, RT Chris Hairston and Tyreek Burwell (he returned and played with a sprained MCL, had no more OL reserve players). WR Malcolm Floyd also left in the first half with a concussion and that’s how he ended his final game in the NFL.
On the third play of the game Brock Osweiler hit Demaryius Thomas on a short curl route but cornerback Greg Ducre, playing for the injured Jason Verrett, couldn’t bring him down on the tackle attempt (I feel dirty calling that an actual attempt, more like a two-hand touch tackle) which allowed Thomas to sprint down the sidelines then cut back and go 72 yards to the house. That would be the only points the Broncos would score in the first half.
Lambo would finish his rookie season 24/30 (80%), 26/30 on extra points, and had 3 50+ yard field goals.
On the Broncos’ next possession, Osweiler hit Emmanuel Sanders this time on a comeback and it was Steve Williams who couldn’t bring him down as Sanders went down the sideline. Williams, however, never gave up on the play then stripped and recovered the fumble after a 46 yard completion. Williams would certainly leave his mark on this game.
After the Chargers failed to capitalize on the turnover, Steve Williams was at it again. On a 3rd-and-1, Osweiler’s pass went right through the hands of Jordan Norwood and was picked by Williams. But again, the Chargers offense could not get anything going leading to another punt.
On the second play of the quarter, it was, guess who, Steve Williams on the blitz. He got to Osweiler and forced a fumble that was recovered by Damion Square. The Chargers offense would go three and out.
Two possession later, Melvin Ingram got pressure on Osweiler who threw a wobbly pass that was intercepted by Safety Adrian Phillips, who was signed off the practice squad on Wednesday. Now with a short field, the Chargers still couldn’t pick up a first down, but Lambo would hit a 42-yard field goal, his second of the game, to make it a 7-6 game.
That would be the score heading into half time, as the Chargers forced 4 turnovers and the offense managed 5 first downs. The Broncos had over 270 yards in the first quarter but only managed 7 points in the half. Steve Williams in the half had an INT, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
On the Broncos’ first possession of the second half, it was again another turnover, their 5th of the game. Manti Te’o knocked the ball loose from C.J. Anderson on their second play from scrimmage. The Chargers’ offense would finally capitalize as Rivers hit Antonio Gates on a 3rd and 8 for a 13-yard TD. Gates would finish the season with 593 yards on 53 receptions and 4 touchdowns, he also missed the first four games with the suspension.
Now with the Chargers ahead 13-7, Denver head coach Gary Kubiak decided to go with Peyton Manning, who suited up for the first time since injuring his foot 7 weeks ago. This provided the spark the Broncos would need as they would drive 80-yards on 8 plays and C.J Anderson scored
from one yard out. His two previous runs were called touchdowns but reviewed and changed as he was down short of the goal line.
The Broncos would tack on a field goal early in the quarter, on a Brandon McManus 48-yarder, to make it a 17-13 game.
On the Chargers first play on their next possession, the Broncos defense blew a coverage that resulted in a Rivers to Tyrell Williams 80-yard TD. Aqib Talib jumped an underneath route and allowed Williams to just run right by, resulting in another lead change at the Chargers would go ahead 20-17. It was Williams first career catch, what a way to start your career for the rookie wideout.
Manning was just 5/9 for 69 yards, but moved the ball every time he got possession. He set up another McManus field goal attempt to tie it at 20 with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
After a couple of 3 and outs, the big blow came on a Chargers’ 3rd and 7. River was looking for Williams over the middle but the pass came in too high and went off the hands of Williams and was picked off by the Broncos.
One play later it was Ronnie Hillman breaking a Te’o tackle and going 23-yards to the house for the go-ahead score.
The Chargers would have one more shot but on a 4th and 6, Rivers’ pass fell incomplete and the Broncos ran out the clock to lock up the #1 seed in the AFC.
Philip Rivers – 21/35, 288 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 Int
Donald Brown – 21 carries, 81 yards
Danny Woodhead – 5 carries, 11 yards / 8 receptions, 51 yards
Tyrell Williams – 2 receptions, 90 yards, 1 TD
Steve Williams – 6 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 sack, 1 Int
Steve Williams had a career day, and Tyrell Williams will also never forget his first NFL catch, an 80-yard TD.
Philip Rivers still finished with one of his best statistical years, even with a depleted roster and lack of talent surrounding him. Rivers finished 10 yards short of tying Dan Fouts‘ franchise record for passing yards in a season with 4,792.
Danny Woodhead also made history by becoming the first Chargers’ running back to lead the team in catches (80), receiving yards (755), and receiving TD’s (6). Speaks to how great Woodhead is, and how decimated this team was with talent on the offensive side of the ball.
The Chargers are still deciding if they plan to keep head coach Mike McCoy as Black Monday looms. Some NFL head coaches didn’t even survive Sunday, but we will see how the Chargers handle it with the impending move North.
Hopefully, this will not be my last recap for the SAN DIEGO Chargers.
Bolt Up my friends, bolt up.
Nick was born and raised in San Diego where he became a Chargers and Padres fan, attending numerous home games throughout the years with his dad. He then went on to attend college at the University of Arizona. There he earned his degree in marketing and now lives in San Francisco where he dreams of the the sunny beaches of San Diego. Bear Down.