J.C and Co. take it at the 20 and immediately give it to former bad boy Brandon Marshall for a quick nine-yard gain. Way to spark the crowd. Quick toss to Scheffler tacks on another 24-yards and the Broncos have got a pretty good drive started. Unfortunately it stalls out with back to back false start penalties and Brett Kern makes his debut to punt. Flashes of brilliance with some obvious confusion thrown in.
Chargers take the field, break out a quick one yard run before they decide to give it right back. Champ bailey makes the int and the Broncos have great field position. Here comes the conspiracy theory – Norv Turner challenges the call, but none of the replay equipment is working and the Broncos take it at the Chargers 29. Five plays later it's Michael Pittman for the score. Denver takes an early 7-0 lead. BTW – the Broncos seven points betters their combined point total for both games against the Chargers last season (Broncos were outscored by a total of something like 466-6, if that makes you feel any better).
Two big observations so far… the Broncos are a whole lot better than most give them credit for, and the Chargers are nowhere near the runaway team in the AFC West that everyone thought they were. That being said, Rivers engineers a respectable ten play drive and Nate Kaeding splits the uprights to cut it to 7-3 Denver. Nothing spectacular but three completions in a row resulted in three first downs for San Diego.
Cutler gets ready to grab a little more ammunition in case Rivers wants a go at it…. Huge completion to Marshall picks up 34 and the Broncos threaten again. 12 plays, 80-yards and Rivers is menacingly quiet along the Charger sidelines. Denver holds a 14-3 lead just minutes into the second quarter.
After a brilliant defensive stand that saw the Chargers start at their own five, and finish on their own 2, JC'S at it again. Two plays, 48-yards and Tony Scheffler's everybody's new best friend. Broncos are taking it to the house at this stage 21-3. What could possibly go wrong?
Did I mention Special Teams? I was hoping I wouldn't have to. Darren Sproles ties a San Diego franchise record returning the kick 103-yards untouched into the end zone. Well that puts a damper on an otherwise enjoyable afternoon - Chargers narrow the gap 21-10.
With San Diego's fourteen-second time of possession, the Broncos offense is back quick, and despite back to back penalties on rookie left tackle Ryan Clady, illegal procedure and a chop block, (wonder where he picked that up?), Cutler manages to move it into Charger territory where Matt Prater saves his skin with a 52-yarder that barely passes the crossbar. Denver remains on top 24-10 but the Chargers are starting to wake up…
Maybe it's the Broncos defense that should wake up? Eighty-yards in 6-plays and Rivers finds Chris Chambers 48-yards from pay dirt – that hurts. There's some huge gaps in the Broncos defensive backfield and San Diego's eating it up. 24-17 is not a comfortable cushion with this many holes in the boat…
What – me worry? Well maybe a little, but the crew comes back and restores faith in Bronco Country. Cutler lays out some brilliant clock management as the first half comes to a close, finding Brandon Marshall deep in the corner of the end zone for the score. Eleven plays, 80-yards and 2:23 off the clock and the Broncos hold a sweet 31-17 lead as time expires. It's a mad dash to the buffet and the madness will continue… by the way, I'm still lobbying for beer in the press box but it doesn't look like it's happening anytime soon.
Did I mention Special Teams? Unfortunately I have to AGAIN…Sproles waltzes down the sideline, finally getting pushed out at the San Diego 41 . Giving a short field to the Chargers is like leaving a loaded cell phone in front of my daughter - you're bound for trouble. Rivers comes through, tagging Vincent Jackson in the end zone and if you bet the over/under you're sitting pretty. Eight plays, 59-yards and the Chargers narrow it to a 7-point Bronco lead, 31-24. These guys just won't go away – then again special teams won't let them. There haven't been this many gaps since Michael Strahan smiled.
Broncos take possession and promptly go nowhere… the dance is taking on a whole new twist. Three and out for Cutler and I cringe to think about how Rivers is ripping up the secondary.
Maybe ripping isn't the right word – demolishing is more like it. He's making it look easy. Six plays, 75-yards and Kaeding makes another appearance to tack on three. Chargers sits dangerously close at 31-27. Surely somebody's gonna make some changes in the secondary? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? This is easy (cut and past from two paragraphs ago). Broncos take possession and promptly go nowhere… the dance is taking on a whole new twist. Three and out for Cutler and I cringe to think about how Rivers is ripping up the secondary.
Here we go again – Rivers' on the move. Secondary seems intent on covering a little tighter. In fact they're covering tight enough to get tagged with pass interference. The misery continues as San Diego rolls it to the Broncos 11 as the third comes to a close. I would probably advise drinking heavily at this stage…
Bam… Kaeding to the rescue again – 31-30 and the Broncos lead is falling faster than the economy. I'm scared to check the stats, but I doubt the Broncos made a single first down the entire third quarter. Scoring points was obviously out of the question.
If it's going to happen - it has to happen now. Cutler needs to get control - and quit jacking around if it doesn't work. I guess he read my text – first drive of the half that actually amounts to anything. I take it back, Broncos push it inside the 20 when JC tosses out his first INT of the season. You knew it was bound to happen, but the timing couldn't have been any worse. 5:30 remaining in the game and SD starts it at their own nine.
Barely had time to even gather my thoughts before Rivers hits Jackson for a 21-yard pick up and first and ten at the 30. Two plays later it happened – Rivers to Spores, and it's a 66-yard dance to the end zone. Turner goes for two on the PAT and suddenly the Broncos are on the wrong side of what wasn't supposed to happen. Chargers take a 38-31 lead with just over four left in the game… I'm hoping that's a mistake
The Broncos final drive of the game was a work of art – unlike any of the third quarter. Cutler was in sync – Marshall was in sync and Eddie Royal may own this town shortly. Unfortunately, this could have all gone for nothing had it not been for an obvious blown call that should have been ruled a Cutler fumble by referee Ed Hochuli – here's his version of the events.
"The ruling on the field was that it was an incomplete pass. We went to replay; it should have been ruled fumble. By rule, by the instant replay rules, on that particular play where there's a pass/fumble, a quarterback pass/fumble the rules do not permit you to give the ball to the other team. All we can do to fix it is put the ball at the spot that it hit the ground, which is why we moved it back to the 10-yard line and the down counts and it becomes third down.''
Pretty jacked – unless you're a Broncos fan – and for the 70,000+ at Invesco, it was the right call at the right time. I'm not going to argue it...
So Denver goes 2-0, beating the best and the worst of the AFC West, and the Saints headed to town next Sunday. Stay tuned, chances are this will be fun…
Player and Coach Press Conference to follow shortly.
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