They started the game from the worst of all positions – their one yard line – looking for a destination that could not be farther.
This desperate starting point proved to be the right one for a rough day as the Chargers embarked on a reasonably intelligent journey but failed to do so instead.
Too many devastating mistakes, missed opportunities and empty holdings doomed them to a 28-13 defeat to Denver.
“Today we had a chance to play a winning game,” said coach Brandon Staley, “but we didn’t do it enough.”
The defeat pushed the Chargers down to 6-5, leaving them in a three-way runner-up game at AFC West, one game behind Kansas City.
They fell 14-0 just 17 minutes into the game, when their attack failed and their defense made enough mistakes to push the Broncos into the home zone.
The Chargers lost three and came out in the first two streaks, leading to Denver’s initial points-scoring drives. Going 14-0, the Chargers were down 157-16 yards total.
Defensively, they allowed Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater 11 yards for a touchdown, and then failed to stop running duo Melvin Gordon III and Havonte Williams as Denver pushed down the field.
Faced with a third goal in the top nine, the Broncos fired again and Williams scored – Staley: “That was killer.” – to get the difference in two touches. At that time, the Broncos had all 12 first failures in the game.
The latest episode included a couple of brutal Chargers blunders. Furious Derwin James Jr. fired Bridgewater to force a fumble, which was revived by midfielder Keezir White. However, re-viewing ruled that the play was incomplete.
“I thought it was a mistake,” James said. “But the review came back and they said it was incomplete. So I just have to live with what they say. “
Just two shots later, Joey Bose fired another Denver quarterback, Drew Locke, who replaced Bridgewater after hitting James. Locke fiddled too, but Denver’s receiver Tim Patrick recovered.
The Chargers ‘attack brought a much-needed success shortly before the break following James’ second interception of the season. His jump grab led to an offensive on Denver’s 47-yard line.
Justin Herbert made passes to Keenan Allen for 18 and 14 yards as the Chargers moved into the red. Herbert then connected with Austin Ekeler for a 12-yard touchdown to make the score 14-7.
Approaching the start of the second half, the Chargers were able to expand their momentum. And they dominated the third quarter, playing 22 games against three Broncos.
However, the Chargers failed to score when Dustin Hopkins conceded a 52-yard field goal and Patrick Surtain II knocked Herbert out in the end zone in two games in the fourth quarter.
The interception was one of the most unsuccessful throws in Herbert’s young career. He tried to find Jared Cook’s bid but lost.
“He’s trying to act out the game,” Staley said. “He’s trying to be aggressive. Their corner played well. “
When asked if he considered himself too aggressive, Herbert replied: “No, I think I just need to throw a better ball.”
Throughout the game, Herbert was under constant pressure as Denver made him uncomfortable, mostly using only foursome punches. Herbert was fired three times and hit 10 times.
He acted behind the line, passing left-back Matt Feiler, who played all the offensive moments on Sunday. The veteran missed the game with an ankle injury.
He was replaced by Senio Kelemete, a free agent who the Chargers signed from the San Francisco training team in October. Kelemete struggled most of the day in his ninth season in the NFL and was called up to two penalties.
On the right side, the Chargers continue to attack Storm Norton in capture and Michael Schofield in defense. Both are injury replacements for Brian Bulag and Odaya Aboushi, respectively.
“We play a lot of different combos,” says Staley from the glued offensive line. “Continuity ahead is the real thing.”
Herbert finished 28 of 44, 303 yards and two touchdowns. He had a second interception when he and Ekeler were unable to connect, and the ball was again in the hands of Surtain.
This time, the rookie defender returned the ball 70 yards for a touchdown as the Broncos scored twice in less than 90 seconds in the fourth quarter to end the game.
“I thought Justin got his bearings. [the pressure] okay, Staley said. “He did a lot of great pranks by throwing this. But we just need to attack him more fully and play cleaner football. “