SAN DIEGO —** In spite of an inspired performance from his special teams units in his debut as interim head coach, Joe DeCamillis couldn't shake his own disappointment.
The Broncos had fought in their attempt to climb out of an 18-point hole on the road, but a furious comeback attempt came up short in the final seconds. DeCamillis left the field upset he could not have done more to help.
"I just wish we could have got a win for the city, got a win for the organization," DeCamillis told the media after the game. "I'm sick to my stomach. It's sickening. I hate to lose, man. That's all."
In the four days since taking the reins while Head Coach Gary Kubiak recuperated from a complex migraine condition, DeCamillis had prepared to the best of his ability, seeking out advice from family, friends and colleagues alike while he and the team continued regular weekly preparation.
Ring of Fame coach Dan Reeves and Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips each told him to simply be himself.
DeCamillis could certainly say he did that.
"I think the one good thing about it is Joe D was who he is, day in and day out," Trevor Siemian said. "I thought he handled obviously a tough situation for everybody but he handled it as good as he could, and he was the same guy he's been ever since I've known him. I know a lot of guys appreciated that and he did a heck of a job, I think."
At a personal level, he provided steady leadership throughout the week and the game. At a football level, his special-teams unit created their usual havoc for opponents. They provided three major opportunities for the Broncos to claw their way back after falling behind from the first drive.
With each dynamic play, the Broncos' special teams gave the team scoring opportunities. The first, a Will Parks recovery of a muffed punt in the second quarter, delivered the ball to the Broncos at the San Diego 11-yard line. The second, a Shiloh Keo recovery of a muffed kick return attempt by Chargers reserve lineman Kenny Wiggans, resulted in a touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian to Bennie Fowler. And the third, a recovered onside kick by Jordan Taylor, gave the Broncos a chance, however slim, to potentially tie the game.
After falling behind early, the Broncos battled to regain the lead and their mojo on the road in the division, but came up short. (Photos by Eric Bakke unless noted)
In a win, those plays would have been heartening for DeCamillis, but instead, they created no comfort.
"It's just frustrating when you get three turnovers on special teams and you don't win the game," DeCamillis said. "That's not the way you want be."
Though his unit had some excellent moments, DeCamillis noted out that they weren't perfect. He pointed to a kickoff touchback with 8:08 left in regulation that was intended to be a bit more shallow to give Denver's coverage unit the opportunity to stop the Chargers well beyond the 25-yard line. Though a 12-yard sack would drive San Diego farther back, DeCamillis had identified it as a chance to further capitalize on field position with the team down 11 points.
"We didn't execute the way we wanted to," DeCamillis said. "We didn't want a touchback right there. Obviously we could have maybe got some field position right there, garnered some field position. We didn't do that. That's why I said it wasn't just one phase that made mistakes. We all made mistakes. So we've got to get them corrected."
In this difficult and rare situation, DeCamillis did his best to assess his night, but he felt that whatever success he had was outweighed by the end result.
"I know [Kubiak's] got a tough job. I can tell you that," he said. "Hopefully I did the right things for the most part. Like I said, the ultimate [goal] is to win the game and we didn't do that."