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Chargers Hold Off Broncos, 29-24

Posted Oct 9, 2011

Denver's fourth quarter comeback is denied on the final play as the Broncos fall to 1-4 on the year.

DENVER -- With one second left on the clock, Tim Tebow scrambled feverishly to avoid the rush and launched a deep pass for the end zone with a chance to defeat the San Diego Chargers.

At one point in the fourth quarter the Broncos were down 16, now they were looking for the game-winning score as the ball soared towards the goal line. But Tebow's hopeful, 29-yard pass for Matt Willis was knocked away. Time ran out on a furious Denver comeback and the Chargers emerged with a 29-24 victory.

"Thought we had a chance there," Tebow said of the game's final play. "I was just trying to scramble around and see if we could find a one-on-one matchup in the end zone.

"Came up a little bit short."

As Sunday's game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High entered the fourth quarter, it seemed improbable that this contest between heated AFC West rivals would remain undecided until the final second.

When Nick Novak's 51-yard field goal attempt sailed through the uprights, extending San Diego's lead over Denver to 26-10 early in the fourth quarter, the Chargers appeared comfortably in control.

Through three quarters of play they had a 16-point lead, a 17:24 advantage in time of possession and 21 first downs compared to Denver's five.

But those statistics were seemingly irrelevant to Tebow -- who took over for Kyle Orton after halftime -- and the Broncos offense as they took the field down two scores in the final frame.

"Tim Tebow sparked the team today," Head Coach John Fox said.

The replacement under center cut the deficit to eight after engineering a 9-play drive that culminated with a 12-yard score on a designed quarterback run. That was followed by a successful two-point conversion with a burst up the gut from Willis McGahee, who finished with 125 yards on the ground.

Robert Ayers then forced Philip Rivers to fumble before releasing a throw on the ensuing San Diego possession, putting the ball right back in Tebow's hands on the Chargers 41-yard line.

"We got that big turnover and knew we were going to go in and punch it in again," wide receiver Eric Decker said.

Three plays later, Tebow absorbed heavy pressure from the San Diego defense and floated a screen pass to Knowshon Moreno, who followed a block from guard Chris Kuper and bulldozed the last defender on his way to a stadium-shaking 28-yard score.

Tebow then lofted a pass to the corner for Brandon Lloyd on the two-point attempt, but cornerback Antoine Cason was able to get a hand on the ball and force the incompletion.

The Chargers took over with a two-point lead and proceeded to churn 2:55 off the clock before Novak hit a 35-yard field goal.

"They got in field goal range and killed a lot of time," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "That really hurt us."

Down five, the Broncos started at their own 20-yard line with 24 seconds left. A jaw-dropping, one-handed catch on the sideline by Lloyd picked up a quick 20 yards and Tebow connected with tight end Daniel Fells deep over the middle for a 31-yard pickup on the next play.

After a spike to stop the clock with one second remaining, Tebow hurled a pass for the end zone with the game's outcome soaring through the air.

They gave themselves an opportunity to win, but the pass fell incomplete and the Broncos fell to 1-4. 

"There is a lot of fight in that locker room, and we've got a chance with that," Head Coach John Fox said.

The Chargers seized the momentum late in the first half with 17 unanswered points before halftime.

Cassius Vaughn returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown to give Denver a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, but after a field goal from each side stretched the score to 10-6, Rivers took control.

On third-and-goal, Rivers scrambled up the middle for a 2-yard score with 7:24 remaining in the half. After a three-and-out from the Broncos, Novak added another field goal. Another three-and-out from Denver left the Chargers time to score with just over a minute to go before halftime and Rivers took advantage.

Malcolm Floyd hauled in a 42-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds and San Diego entered the half with a 23-10 lead. 

The Broncos came out of the locker room determined to close the gap and they did just that, fighting back for a shot at victory.

But the comeback effort wasn't enough to earn that coveted victory over the division-leaders.

"We lost as a team, but we fought; we showed courage," defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. "We didn't quit, but we came up short, and that's what happens -- you lose."