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Broncos beat Chargers 31-28 despite Los Angeles playing starters well into fourth quarter

The Denver Broncos came to play on Sunday and beat up on the Los Angeles Chargers starters in a 31-28 win to close out the 2022 season.

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NFL: DEC 18 Cardinals at Broncos Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Denver Broncos didn’t get the “easy win” many expected as the Los Angeles Chargers came to play all of their starters in this game. That continued well into the fourth quarter until the Broncos went up by two scores, which prompted Los Angeles to finally bench Justin Herbert. The 31-28 win would move the Broncos to 5-12 on the season.

In-Game Updates

12:55 PM: The Broncos have decided to keep Montrell Washington on the sidelines as he will be inactive again to close out the season. With Kendall Hinton out, the kickoff and punt return duties could fall on Chase Edmonds or even Jalen Virgil.

2:24 PM: Denver won the opening coin toss and elected to defer. They are 4-12 on the season, but are now 13-4 on opening coin tosses. The Chargers will get the ball to start the game.

2:26 PM: Before kickoff, the teams agreed to decline a delay of game penalty so both teams could honor #3 Damar Hamlin. Both Russell Wilson and Derwin James met in the middle of the field to take a knee.

2:32 PM: The Chargers had their starters out on the field to start the game and, after converting a third and long early, they marched right down the field where Justin Herbert found Keenan Allen for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Chargers up 7-0 early.

2:47 PM: In response to the opening touchdown, the Broncos playcalling under Justin Outten continued to look impressive. Wilson on the move is turning this offense into something worth watching. Latavius Murray would punch it in from two-yards out to cap a long 75 yard drive. Broncos 7, Chargers 7.

2:53 PM: Ja’Quan McMillian got the start in place of Damarri Mathi in this final game and he showed he was ready to play on the Chargers next drive. He had a tackle at the line of scrimmage and forced an incompletion deep on Mike Williams.

3:03 PM: The first quarter would come to an end with the Herbert finding Mike Williams for a first down into Broncos territory.

3:11 PM: Los Angeles kept their starters out there and drove down to the Broncos’ five yard line. On first and goal, Josey Jewell rocked running back Austin Ekeler with a big hit at the three yard line. That didn’t stop Herbert and the Chargers, however, cause two plays later he would find Gerald Everett in the end zone for the 14-7 lead.

3:23 PM: Down by a touchdown, the Broncos needed a break on defense. They found one from Justin Simmons forcing a fumble on Austin Ekeler that was recovered by Josey Jewell near midfield.

3:31 PM: Latavius Murray made the drive for the Broncos after the fumble recovery. On third and six, he exploded outside for a 25-yard gain to the Chargers’ 20-yard line. The drive would stall from there, but Brandon McManus would cut the lead to 14-10 with under three minutes to play in the half.

3:49 PM: The Broncos went a quick three and out and gave the Chargers a chance to add to their lead, which they did with a 48-yard field goal with less than a minute to go in the half. Chargers up 17-10.

3:54 PM: With 19 seconds left in the half, Russell Wilson scrambled outside and went deep to Jerry Jeudy for a 57-yard gain to the Chargers two. Wilson would hit Eric Tomlinson on the next play to tie the game up at 17.

4:14 PM: Denver needed little time to open up the second half with a strong drive. The drive got a head of steam after a big gain by Chase Edmonds on a third down into Chargers territory. A pass to Jerry Jeudy for another 15 and then a toss outside of Tyler Badie took his first NFL touch 24-yards for a touchdown to put the Broncos up 24-17.

4:26 PM: After hitting Jerry Jeudy for a massive 50-yard bomb into Chargers territory, Wilson had a ball tipped and intercepted by a defensive lineman to end the promising drive.

4:32 PM: Justin Herbert and the Chargers converted that interception into points with a 36-yard field goal after driving down inside the 20 yard line to cut the Broncos lead to 24-20.

4:46 PM: The third quarter would come to an end after another Chargers turnover. Justin Simmons forced his second fumble of the game, this time on DeAndre Carter, with Kareem Jackson recovering at the Broncos 10-yard line.

4:56 PM: The Broncos got their third 50+ yard pass of the game on their next drive. Wilson found Freddie Swain on a 50-yard bomb and then hit Courtland Sutton for a touchdown two plays later for the Broncos first game with 30 or more points. They lead the Chargers 31-20.

5:03 PM: The Broncos defense forced a three-and-out on Chase Daniel and the Chargers offense, but Brandon Johnson muffed the punt to give Los Angeles the ball back in Broncos territory.

5:07 PM: The Chargers quickly cashed in on that miscue with a one-yard touchdown reception from Keenan Allen to cut the Broncos lead. A two-point conversion would make it 31-28.

5:30 PM: To wrap this up, the Broncos offense just needed to churn out first downs and eat up the clock after taking over at their own four yard line. A 21-yard run by Latavius Murray, a 12-yard run by Jerry Jeudy, and a 9-yard run by Murray again brought them to their own 46-yard line. Then another first down on the other side of the two minute warning would secure the Broncos fifth win of the season. Broncos 31, Chargers 28.

Game Preview

The Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers battle it out in Week 18. The Chargers surprisingly decided to play their starters in this game despite the outcome having no bearing on their seeding in the AFC playoffs.

Given that the Broncos are playing a lot of the backups and reserve players, they should win this game. However, nothing comes easily for Denver in 2022 and I would expect them to play another close game. In the end, I still think they win.

Kickoff is set for 2:25 p.m. Mile High time on Sunday, January 7, 2023 at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. You can watch the live stream of the game through FuboTV or on CBS.

My Prediction

In partnership with DraftKings Sportsbook, I am covering all my picks this year on TallySight. Everyone went with the Chargers this week, except for me. I think after that strong performance last week and the Chargers resting their starters, the Broncos should be able to close out a win here. Though I doubt they cover the 6-point spread.

Broncos vs. Chargers live updates