DENVER — The Broncos are very much alive in the race for the AFC West.
Following the Broncos' 28-13 win over the Chargers, Denver firmly entrenched itself in the AFC West race and set up a Week 13 showdown against the Chiefs for first place in the division.
The Broncos, who have now won three of their last four games, rode a strong defensive performance and a gritty showing from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to earn their first division victory since Week 8 of 2020.
Denver built a 14-0 lead in the first half behind a strong ground game, and they then survived two long drives from the Chargers in the third quarter to hold onto their advantage. A pair of Pat Surtain II interceptions in the fourth quarter — including a pick-six — iced the game and handed Denver their third consecutive home win over the Chargers.
In the process, the Broncos remained a division contender and pushed their record back above .500.
These were the players and plays that made a difference in the Broncos' division win over the Chargers.
The Chargers dominated time of possession early in the second half, as they posted two drives that spanned a combined 24 plays and more than 14 minutes. Despite holding onto the ball, the Chargers weren't able to get points. On their first possession of the second half, Dustin Hopkins missed a 52-yard field goal. On the next drive, after the Chargers converted a fourth-and-4 from the Denver 34-yard line, the Broncos' defense again held strong. Pat Surtain II picked off Herbert in the end zone to keep the Chargers off the scoreboard again, and Denver kept its 14-7 advantage. On the next drive, the Broncos pushed the lead back to two touchdowns with a pair of third-and-long conversions and a 42-yard catch-and-run from Javonte Williams. The defense was asked to do more than its share throughout the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter, and the unit delivered.
There's an argument to be made that zero should be the defining statistic, as a reference to the Broncos' ability to hold the Chargers scoreless on their two third-quarter drives. But we'll give a nod here to the Broncos' offense, which rebounded from a poor performance in Week 10 against the Eagles and went 8-of-11 on third down and ran for 147 yards on Sunday. The Broncos were able to sustain drives, find success in the red zone — 3-of-3 — and largely avoid mistakes.
Teddy Bridgewater was hobbled later in the game, but in the first quarter, he showed off his wheels. On second-and-goal from the Chargers 11-yard line, Bridgewater scrambled to his right. Aided by a pancake block from tackle Cam Fleming, Bridgewater got to the corner and turned upfield. He then lunged for the pylon for the team's opening score of the game.
Pat Surtain II snagged a key interception in the end zone and later added a pick-six to seal the Broncos' victory.
Teddy Bridgewater scored a first-quarter touchdown and then returned from an injury to lead the Broncos to a crucial scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Denver's defense held the potent Chargers offense to just seven points until the waning minutes, and that drive came following a turnover that gave Los Angeles the ball in Denver territory.
Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon III combined for more than 130 yards on the ground, and Williams added a big play through the air.