SAN DIEGO – Fumble. Punt. Interception. Interception. Interception. Fumble.
The Broncos defense made life miserable during each of the San Diego Chargers' six drives in the second half on Monday night.
Of those possessions, five resulted in turnovers, two of which were returned for scores. San Diego passed midfield just twice in the half, and both of those drives ended in turnovers. The defensive shutout helped Denver overcome a 24-0 halftime deficit.
"We don't look at the scoreboard, we just keep digging," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "Just keep fighting, Just keep chipping away. The feeling in this locker room at halftime, you would've thought we were up. It didn't really matter what the score is. We knew we could play better, and we did. We came out in the second half and just got after the quarterback and made some big plays."
With both sides of the ball thriving and feeding off one another, the Broncos began to add touchdown after touchdown.
Tony Carter provided a spark when he scooped up a fumble caused by defensive end Elvis Dumervil's strip-sack of Philip Rivers and raced 65 yards to the end zone.
"I tried to run with him, but I couldn't," Dumervil said of the Carter's fumble return, which was the sixth-longest in team history. "He's one of the fastest guys on the team. Tony Carter has been playing great all year for us. He stepped up today, his name was called and he was able to make some big plays for us."
With the defense delivering touchdowns, the Broncos offense had to shoulder less of the scoring burden when points were at a premium as the clock continued to tick.
"Defense scoring with the ball – they scored 14 points," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "They had four picks. It was big."
After the defense forced a three-and-out and the offense responded with another touchdown, San Diego led by just three early in the fourth quarter.
Knowing that San Diego might go for the knockout punch on its next possession, Carter came up with another big play.
With Rivers looking deep down the field for wide receiver Robert Meachem, Carter stepped in front of the wideout and made his first career interception.
"It was a point in the game where you kind of knew they were going to try to put us away and take a shot," Carter said about his first career interception. "It was just playing technique. Once the ball is in the air, we play it like it's ours."
That turnover set up the offense with prime field position, which it converted into seven more points to put the team ahead for the first time all game.
Now charged with defending a lead, the defense was able to pin its ears back and go after the quarterback.
The result? Defensive linemen in the backfield snap after snap. Denver sacked Rivers four times in the second half, including twice on the Chargers' final drive of the game.
Chris Harris Jr. joined the interception parade with picks on back-to-back series to mark his first multiple-interception game as a pro. His second also represented a career first as he returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to seal the victory.
"The pressure, man. I can't take anything away from Tony Carter and Chris Harris. They played great," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "But the guys up front, they make it easier for us on the back end. It's never easy playing in the secondary, but when you have a front like that, it definitely takes a little pressure off."
For the icing on the cake, the defense punctuated its stellar second-half performance with another strip-sack that resulted in a fumble recovery on its last play of the game.
It was Dumervil that again got to Rivers and knocked the ball loose on the Chargers' fourth-down desperation play. Safety Mike Adams fell on the ball and a couple of kneeldowns later, the Broncos were tied atop the AFC West with a victory.
"If you had to tell me the perfect day, that was it," Bailey said. "We made plays, we scored on defense. That's what great defenses do."