SAN DIEGO-Watching the fourth quarter of the NFL’s Thursday Night matchup between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos, LTD’s 1978 hit single “Holding On” kept popping up through my mind. Because that is exactly what the Chargers did to preserve their second win of the season.
“It means the world,” said Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram. “It means everything we really needed as a team and now we are just going to try to build on it. We have a long week off, so we will come back next week strong.”
The Chargers, once again, began to sing the same tune against the Broncos as they had sung in their three previous games. Play quarter horse offense the first three quarters, build a commanding lead and then see a sure win melt into a disastrous defeat.
That looked like that was going to be the case against the Broncos. For three quarters, the Chargers kicked Denver’s tail up and down the field. They dominated the trenches, won the defensive and offensive battle and by the time the fourth quarter had hit the 11:59 mark, the Chargers held a convincing 21-3 lead over the Super Bowl champs.
Then they had to go and make things hard for themselves. Derek Watt’s fumble on a kickoff following a safety resulted in a Denver touchdown. You could hear the collective sighs throughout Qualcomm Stadium at that point. Then when quarterback Philip Rivers went down on a 12-yard sack by Shane Ray, a sense of queasiness took over the place.
Denver got the ball back again and actually scored another touchdown. A holding penalty nullified the score, and San Diego was let off the hook for one more series. On Denver’s next series, the Broncos got three more points.
Here we go again. Instead of “High Noon,” this was high drama playing out in San Diego. But luckily, the Broncos ran out of time. A desperation heave from Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian on the final play of the game fell helplessly to the earth. And just like that the Chargers claimed a 21-13 win over their AFC West Division rivals.
But they didn’t make it easy. Somehow, the Chargers managed to turn cruising to victory into a hard-fought win. But when you’re hungry for a victory, winning is all that matters.
“I don’t even know what to call that game,” said Chargers offensive tackle Joe Barksdale. “I need a pacemaker after that one. It feels good to win, though. This is what we’ve been working for since camp. Me and a couple of teammates were talking the other day, the best part of football is winning, and when that gets taken away from you for so many weeks, you get a little bit discouraged; the clouds seem to roll in a little bit. But this one feels good, and I feel like we can keep getting better when we go on the road.”
When you’re desperate, you do desperate things. The Chargers needed to play desperate against the Broncos. And they did.
Winning just one out of five games to kick off your football campaign will make you not just desperate, it will make you a little thirsty. Before Von Miller and his crew came wrecking things at Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers were thirsty for a win. Their throats had gone dry.
A botched field goal cost the Chargers an opportunity at a win against the Oakland Raiders last week. Two fumbles late in the fourth quarter with a double-digit lead cost them a victory against the New Orleans Saints in Week 4.
Another miscue stopped a potential winning-drive against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Bad luck, bad habits, whatever it is, it kept the Chargers from flexing their muscles through the first five games.
On the other hand, the Broncos, and all of their orange and blue glory, had already roughed up last year’s MVP Cam Newton and has looked as ferocious, especially on defense, as they did last season, strutting into San Diego with a 4-1 mark. Better make that 4-2 now.
For the Chargers, this time there were no turnovers to cost them the game. There wasn’t a botched field goal attempt that got in the way this time.
This time they were the better team on the field. It finally showed on the scoreboard. Blowing leads late in games and creating self-destructive mishaps have become the San Diego Chargers’ M/O this season. Not this time. Not today.
The Chargers ended their four-game losing skid to their AFC West rivals by giving the Broncos a taste of their own medicine: they played defense. They played desperate. More importantly, the Chargers played most of the game with well-executed football.
Just like they did in their past three games, the Chargers, however, did have a couple of uh-oh moments. Wide receiver Travis Benjamin decided to execute his uh-oh moment in the second quarter when he allowed a punt to hit him on the ankle that resulted in a turnover and a Denver field goal.
Watt then had his unfortunate moment in the spotlight when he coughed up the ball on a kickoff after the Chargers were awarded the ball on a safety, giving them an 18-point lead. Of course, that turned into a Denver score that sliced the Chargers’ lead to 21-10 with 8:08 remaining in the game.
Things got a little slippery at the end, but San Diego’s defense came up big when it needed to in those waning, wacky moments. With Siemian grounded, the Chargers made the Broncos’ offense looked about as inept as a flag football team for most of the night. It was no different at the end of the game when Denver tried to stage a comeback.
“We needed it (win), just to change our morale and change the feeling around here because it sucks to lose, and it’s an awesome feeling right now,” said defense tackle Corey Luget.