The Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Chargers battled it out on the gridiron in front of a sellout crowd at Mile High. And for the second year in a row, the opening game came down to a last second field goal. Finger nails were chewed down to the bone, but the Broncos were victorious in a 24-21 thrilled over the Chargers on Monday Night Football.
That was close ...— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 12, 2017
But we're ☝️ - 0! pic.twitter.com/v6pO75bKhl
It was a fantastic overall team effort, but it was third-year quarterback Trevor Siemian who stole the show and shined under the bright lights.
Here is how it all went down.
The Broncos won the coin toss and opted to receive in hopes to ignite themselves to an early lead, unfortunately the offense failed to launch and were promptly sent off the field by the Chargers’ defense. It was then Philip Rivers’ opportunity to put points on the board, but the loud fans at Mile High caused confusion in their endeavor and Denver’s vaunted defense quickly put a quick stop to their opening drive.
Hoping to feed off the energy provided by the crowd and the defense, Siemian led the Broncos’ offense back onto the field for their second drive. After a shaky start, he was able to convert on three consecutive third downs and capped off a 13 play, 70 yard drive with a five yard touchdown strike to Bennie Fowler to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead.
The Broncos’ defense held strong in the opening moments of the Chargers’ second drive, but an untimely pass interference penalty by Bradley Roby put Los Angeles deep in Denver territory right before the end of the first quarter. Shortly after, Rivers and his crew were able to capitalize early on in the second quarter. Todd Davis was exposed badly in coverage when Melvin Gordon slipped out of his sights and took a short pass into the end zone to even up the score.
After a few tough defensive stands for each team, the Broncos were provided with a boost when rookie receiver and return specialist Isaiah McKenzie scooted a Drew Kaser punt 31 yards into enemy territory. The offense continued to churn out yardage and could smell blood in the water as they made their way inside the five yard line. On second and goal, Siemian was able to juke Joey Bosa out of his cleats and scramble one yard on a broken play action call for a touchdown to give Denver a 14-7 lead as the first half was coming to a close.
Down seven points, the Chargers got the ball to start the second half, but they didn’t hold onto it for long. On their first third down scenario of the drive, the Broncos brought the house and got to Rivers. Safety Justin Simmons rattled him enough to cause an errant pass that was intercepted by Roby, who redeemed himself for his first half pass interference penalty.
The Broncos’ offense took advantage of the turnover and within moments they were in business. Semian continued to sizzle and hit Demaryius Thomas deep for a 29 yard gain that put them in the red zone. With the stakes high and on yet another third down, Touchdown Trevor delivered and found Fowler in the end zone for a six yard strike that put Denver up two scores, 21-7 with 10:27 to go in the third quarter.
Trevor Siemian:— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) September 12, 2017
11/19, 110 yards, 2 TDs, 109.5 passer rating.
Five carries, 20 yards, 1 TD.
On the next series, the defense put the heat on Rivers and stopped Los Angeles’ offense dead in their tracks. A swagger-filled and confident offense then trotted back onto the field to deliver the death blow to the Chargers. Though they were within several yards of pay dirt, the Broncos offense failed to notch another touchdown, but settled for a 20 yard Brandon McManus to finalize a 14 play, 78 yard drive to put the Broncos up 24-7 as the third quarter came to a close.
The Broncos could have extended their lead in the fourth quarter, but a miracle interception by the Chargers helped change the momentum of the game. Just six plays later, Rivers was able to connect with Keenan Allen who bested and split Simmons and Chris Harris Jr. in coverage and reeled in a six yard touchdown pass to cut Denver’s lead to 24-14 with just over eight minutes to play in regulation.
If you thought the worst was over, it wasn’t. On the ensuing drive, Jamaal Charles fumbled and gave the Chargers the ball back at the 38 yard line. The very next play, Rivers chucked up a deep bomb to Travis Benjamin who hauled it in for a score which silenced Mile High and closed the gap to just three points with the Broncos clinging on to a 24-21 lead with seven minutes remaining in the game.
But just when you thought the Broncos’ offense was lifeless, they fought back and on the first play of their next drive, Siemian hit Virgil Green for 44 yards and got Denver within 20 yards of obtaining another touchdown. Sadly, the Broncos’ offensive line crumbled and Menelik Watson and Garett Bolles were beat for sacks on back-to-back plays. To make matters worse, McManus missed the 50 yard field goal opportunity that could have given Denver a larger lead.
Luckily for the Broncos, the Chargers weren’t able to take advantage of the great field position and surrendered the ball back to Denver with just three minutes to go.
The intensity was rising, the pendulum of football karma was swinging in the Chargers’ favor — and Broncos Country was almost breathless as Rivers led Los Angeles down the field with just seconds on the clock. But the Football Gods looked upon Denver and their fans favorably, and after the icing of their kicker, Los Angeles’ rookie had his second attempt blocked by Shelby Harris, which sealed the victory for the Broncos who won last year’s opener in similar fashion.
What a wild ride! The Broncos are officially 1-0 to start the season. Share your game thoughts and observations in the comments section. Here are some of mine:
Hart’s Quick Hits
- The Broncos were 16-1 in their last 17 home opener and with a win tonight, extend that mark to 17-1.
- One of the biggest pieces missing from the Broncos’ offensive puzzle was production at the tight end position. The unit performed much better in the season opener, combining for five catches and 98 yards.
- C.J. Anderson had a great first game and seemed to benefit from an offensive line who looked much better run blocking in comparison to last year. He had 20 carries for 81 yards and the team as a whole had 140 yards on the ground and a 4.0 YPC average.
- Garet Bolles and Menelik Watson struggled to contain Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa on a consistent basis and allowed several sacks. Bolles will likely develop into a quality tackle, but Watson has been and never will be a quality NFL player. One of the biggest priotities for Denver next offseason should be finding his replacement.
- Outside of a tipped interception, Siemian was magnificent and efficient with an overall stat line of 17/28 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he was money on third down situations, which was a drastic improvement from last season.
- The No Fly Zone played well for most of the game, but Rivers routinely picked on Bradley Roby throughout the fourth quarter. Roby has a penchant for coming up with the big play in a lot of games, but needs to develop more consistency to merit a contract extension beyond his rookie deal.
- I was underwhelmed with the Broncos’ pass rush and outside of one sack and a few hurries, they weren’t able to consistently get after Rivers. They will need to perform much better next week if they want to beat the Dallas Cowboys.