Denver Broncos 27, San Diego Chargers 20
The regular season finale had a lot riding on it. The Denver Broncos could win and get the first seed in the playoffs accompanied by a bye week or they could lose to the 4-11 San Diego Chargers, lose the AFC West and have to play in the Wild Card round. At times in Sunday’s contest either scenario looked likely.
The Broncos dominated every part of the game except two areas. Five Broncos turnovers led to a tight ball game that was 7-6 at halftime, then saw four lead changes in the second half.
Brock Osweiler started the contest and threw for 232 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also was involved in three of the five turnovers. The Broncos ran for a respectable 65 yards in the first half and outgained the Chargers 279-93 but could not avoid costly mistakes. Those mistakes, two interceptions and fumbles by Osweiler, Emmanuel Sanders and C.J. Anderson led to Peyton Manning return following their first drive of the second half.
The Broncos defense held the Chargers to short throws and a fairly ineffective rushing attack through two quarters despite the unfavorable field position. They held the visitors to only ten points off turnovers and sacked Phillip Rivers three times. One of those scores was an Antonio Gates touchdown with 8:27 left in the third quarter that gave the Chargers their first lead of the game, 13-7.
Then Manning made his return. He led six drives, scoring on four of them and running out the clock on the last one. He only completed 5-of-9 passes but turned the game around when it was nearly lost. A 80-yard bomb by the Chargers again gave them a a brief 20-17 lead but the Broncos rallied at every turn.
When all was said and done, the Broncos had outgained the Chargers 503-310 but only escaped the season finale in front of 76,601 thrilled fans by one touchdown. It came on the legs of Ronnie Hillman with 4:44 to go, just a play after safety Shiloh Keo intercepted Rivers.
Here’s a look at the best-of-the-best from the top-seed clinching victory.