Broncos beat Chargers on last-second field goal

Henry Chisholm Avatar
November 19, 2018

For the second consecutive game, it all came down to Broncos kicker Brandon McManus and unlike last time, on Sunday he converted.

The Broncos beat the Chargers 23-22 at StubHub Center on Sunday, on the back of a 34-yard field goal from McManus as time expired. The win improves Denver’s record to 4-6, as Los Angeles falls to 7-3. The teams will meet again in the final game of the season on Dec. 30 at Mile High.

Denver gained possession of the ball at their eight-yard line with 1:51 remaining in the game. They faced a two-point deficit, with no timeouts remaining.

Broncos quarterback Case Keenum found Emmanuel Sanders open in the middle of the field for a 38-yard catch-and-run on the second play. With 43 seconds left, Keenum found receiver Tim Patrick for an 11-yard gain to the Chargers’ 34, but he was called for pass interference and the ball was moved back to the Broncos’ side of the 50.

A few plays later, on third down, Keenum hit rookie receiver Courtland Sutton for 30 yards down the middle. The team rushed to the 16-yard line to spike the ball with three seconds left. McManus then drilled the first ball, which was nullified by a Chargers timeout, and snuck the second inside the right post.

Keenum completed all five of his pass attempts on the drive, gaining 86 yards, but his day didn’t start as hot. Through three quarters, he still hadn’t thrown for 60 yards.

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said this week that one of the team’s priorities in their bye week was to start games faster over the remainder of the season. That didn’t happen Sunday.

The Broncos received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out. Their second possession only lasted five plays. Meanwhile, the Chargers managed six points and 107 yards on their first two series on the strength of a couple of big plays to Mike Williams and Keenan Allen.

But the Broncos got their offense moving early in the second quarter, after converting a fake punt, they leaned on rookie running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. Twelve minutes before halftime, Lindsay bursted through the line and outran the Los Angeles defense for a 41-yard touchdown, to take a one-point lead.

Denver had a chance to extend their lead after Chris Harris Jr. picked off Philip Rivers, but opted to go for it on fourth-and-one from the edge of the red zone, and failed. They let Rivers off the hook and the quarterback cooked the Broncos’ defense on his next series with more long passing plays. With three minutes left in the half, he found Allen for a four-yard touchdown to take a 13-7 lead.

Despite avoiding a last-second score, Denver allowed Los Angeles to cruise down the field easily to open the second half. Antonio Gates capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown catch to take a 19-7 lead.

The Broncos went three-and-out and the Chargers were driving again when a Von Miller interception set Denver up in plus-territory. Royce Freeman scored on a short touchdown run late in the third quarter to pull within five.

Denver scored another touchdown three minutes into the fourth quarter. Courtland Sutton gained 39 on a catch-and-run to set up a short touchdown run for Lindsay on a direct snap. The Broncos went for two with a quarterback run but Keenum was ruled short. He dove for the end zone, and appeared to score, but Denver didn’t challenge the decision. The Broncos only led by one.

Rivers drove his offense down the field to score a short field goal with seven minutes left in the game. Denver’s next series faltered at midfield and the Chargers took over with four minutes remaining and a two-point lead.

A 25-yard reception by Gates set the Chargers up at the 50, but their offense fell apart from there. On second-and-three Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon went different directions on a handoff play and Rivers gave himself up for a four-yard loss. Rivers then threw away a pass on a screen play, stopping the clock at 1:58 and setting up the Broncos’ final run.

Rivers’ day ended with 401 yards on 28 of 43 passing. Three of his receivers—Allen, Gordon and Gates—brought in more than 80 receiving yards. Gordon also ran for 69 yards on 18 carries.

For Denver, Sutton posted 78 receiving yards on three catches and Sanders had 56 on four. Keenum completed 19 of 32 passes for 205 yards and didn’t turn the ball over.


Phil Lindsay only carried the ball 11 times, but he was explosive on nearly every touch. He ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns and also caught four passes for 27 yards.


Late in the third quarter, Von Miller dropped into coverage in the flat. The Broncos’ pass rush broke through the line and into Phillip Rivers’ face, forcing the veteran quarterback to get the ball out of his hand. He targeted a tight end but the ball flew straight into Miller’s hands and the All-Pro linebacker returned the interception 42 yards.

Miller was dominant on Sunday, finding his way into the Chargers’ backfield consistently, beginning with the first drive. He also notched a sack, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass defended.


“It was crazy man, Philip came out on that first play, I guess he got that first third down on me, and he just started screaming at me. Like talking so much shit to me. I was like, ‘Okay, you want to wake up the dog today? Okay.'” – Chris Harris Jr.


– Sacks allowed by the Broncos’ offensive line

14 – Penalties called on the Chargers, totaling 120 yards

37:49 – The Los Angeles’ time of possession



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