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Defining Moments: Broncos 24, Chargers 21

Posted Sep 11, 2017

These were the plays that led to Denver's win on Monday night.

Starting the year off right

Midway through the first quarter, Broncos fans got a glimpse at the offense they may come to expect under Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy. The Broncos executed a 13-play, 70-yard drive that started at the Denver 30-yard line. On third-and-3 from the Los Angeles 5-yard line, Trevor Siemian drew defensive end Joey Bosa offside and urged his teammates to continue the play. After he rolled to his right, Siemian found a leaping Bennie Fowler III for the first Broncos’ touchdown of the year.

Cuttin’ up

After the Chargers tied the ballgame early in the second quarter, Siemian and the offense would respond. With 10:20 to play in the half, Isaiah McKenzie caught a Los Angeles punt at the Denver 13-yard line and returned the kick 31 yards to jump-start the Broncos’ drive. C.J. Anderson provided a run of 18 yards in which he burst through the Los Angeles front seven, and Siemian found tight end A.J. Derby for a pair of receptions. On second-and-goal from the Chargers 1-yard line, however, Siemian provided the real highlight. The third-year player scrambled to his right with Bosa in pursuit and quickly cut back left. Bosa stumbled and Siemian was left standing in the end zone with a lead for the Broncos.

The defense makes itself heard

As the Chargers looked to get something going to begin the second half, the defense came up with a play of their own. On third-and-6 from the 29-yard line, Philip Rivers’ pass for Keenan Allen was intercepted by cornerback Bradley Roby. The play halted the Chargers’ drive — which would prove important when points were at a premium later in the game.

Thomas goes up to get it

Immediately after the turnover, Siemian and the Broncos went to work. Anderson found a small hole for four yards, and two plays later, Siemian made another big throw. He found Demaryius Thomas down the right sideline for a 29-yard gain that brought the Broncos to the Chargers 10-yard line. Thomas elevated above the cornerback and made the big play. Just moments later, Siemian found Fowler for their second scoring connection of the day.

Sanders works his way across the field

Emmanuel Sanders’ third-quarter catch will be recorded as a 20-yard reception, but the Broncos’ speedy receiver ran many more yards to get to the Los Angeles 24-yard line. The play began with a short Siemian throw to the right, and that’s when Sanders began to make his move. He traced his way all the way across the field as he avoided tackles and picked up blocks from his offensive line.

Big stage, big hits

There were plenty of big hits Monday night, and Shaquil Barrett’s sack of Philip Rivers midway through the fourth quarter is certainly deserving of attention. But nothing could stack up to linebacker Todd Davis’ fourth-down shot on Melvin Gordon. With the Chargers looking to stay in the game, Davis burst off the edge and hit Gordon as soon as he took the handoff. Los Angeles was stuffed short of the line to gain, and the Broncos took over on downs.

Finding a way to survive

With just over eight minutes remaining, the Broncos were up 24-7 and seemed to be coasting to an early-season win over a division rival. That all changed in a hurry. The Chargers took advantage of a questionable non-call on a potential defensive holding, and Rivers found Keenan Allen for a touchdown to cut the lead to 10. Just moments later, Jamaal Charles lost the ball and gave Los Angeles more life. Rivers found Travis Benjamin on the first play after the quick change for a 38-yard touchdown, and the comeback was on. Siemian found Virgil Green for a long gain that was aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty, but Siemian later took a sack. Kicker Brandon McManus missed a 50-yard field goal that would've put the Broncos ahead by six points, the Chargers had one final chance with two minutes on the clock. Finally, though, in an opener that eerily resembled last year's game against the Panthers, the Chargers missed a 44-yard field goal as Shelby Harris got a piece of it. The play ended the game, and the Broncos hung on for a win.

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