SAN DIEGO -- It took a little longer, but the Broncos did it again.
Another fourth-quarter deficit. Another come-from-behind win.
This time, the Broncos were just 29 seconds away from a tie, but that's when kicker
"It's incredible," linebacker
For Prater, he continued what he's been doing his entire career. He's now 24-for-25 in the fourth quarter or overtime.
"We know Matt is clutch," defensive end
Prater's kick came on the heels of a miss by San Diego's kicker Nick Novak. Novak's 53-yard, game-winning attempt in the sudden-death period just a few minutes earlier missed wide right. But by the loud cheers it got, some Broncos players who weren't watching thought the game was over.
"I wasn't watching then," quarterback
Turns out, it was just the large contingent of Bronco fans that turned out at Qualcomm Stadium.
"I heard everybody start cheering, so I thought it went in and then I looked up and that was our fans cheering," Miller said. "It was crazy. Bronco Nation was in full effect today. Hats off to all our fans and I can't wait to get back to Denver."
Prater's kick gave the Broncos a victory that was truly team-earned.
The defense stiffened after Denver fell into a 10-0 hole early in the second quarter, as they constatly got pressure on quarterback Philip Rivers and held the Chargers to just three points the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the offense found its groove after a slow start, outscoring San Diego 16-3 starting when quarterback Tim Tebow found receiver
That's not to forget the special teams play. The punting units excellent offensively and defensively, as the Broncos totalled 60 yards on four punt returns while limiting San Diego to just 16 yards on three returns, and forcing the Chargers to start on or inside their own 20-yard line on eight of their 13 drives. The special teams unit also accounted for nine of Denver's 16 points, including the final three.
"It feels good to come through for the team," Prater said. "It's a team win, not just the kick that put it through."
The Broncos found themselves staring at a 10-0 deficit when Rivers hit tight end Antonio Gates for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 7:58 to go in the second quarter. But the Broncos kept battling.
First, Dumervil sacked Rivers for a 13-yard loss as the Chargers were starting a two-minute drive at the end of the first half. Then
It continued most of that way in the second half. Tebow converted two third downs -- one on a 7-yard run, the other on a 14-yard pass to Matt Willis -- on a drive that ended with a 41-yard Prater field goal in the third quarter to once again bring the Broncos within three points. He then found Decker deep on another third down -- this time on third-and-11 from his own 25-yard line, which turned out to be the most crucial play of the game to that point -- when they connected on a 39-yard completion with under five minutes remaining that set up Prater's game-tying 24-yard field goal.
"We always find a way to hit one (big play)," Decker said. "You try to take the most of the opportunities you get. They may not come throughout the game, but you have to stay up and stay ready for that chance. Explosive plays and turnovers are what determine games."
Dumervil notched another sack on the Chargers' ensuing drive, essentially ending any possibility of a potential game-winning drive in the final seconds. He and Miller pressured Rivers throughout overtime, and Miller had tackle for a four-yard loss that turned a 49-yard field goal attempt into the 53-yard attempt that Novak missed wide right in the extra period, setting the Broncos up for their game-winning drive.
"I think the style, formula that we're using helps the defense," Head Coach John Fox said. "But there's no doubt they've jelled, they're playing with a lot more swagger and confidence."
That swagger and confidence has spread throughout the team, as Prater's kick gave the Broncos five wins in their last six games. It also gave them a sweep of all three divisional teams on the road.
"Winning is contagious. And it's fun," Decker said. "I trust and everyone trusts one another in this locker room and that's the best thing about being a good team. We know it's not going to be the prettiest way, but we know that we're going to find a way and if you give us a chance in the fourth quarter, we feel like it's to our advantage."