DENVER, Colo. — The Broncos won their final game of the season on Sunday, beating the Los Angeles Chargers 31-28 at Empower Field at Mile High. The win leaves the Broncos with a final record of 5-12 for the 2022 campaign and helps Denver dodge a season sweep against AFC West opponents. The win was also the first career win for interim head coach Jerry Rosburg and the 500th win in Denver Broncos history.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Chargers play their starters

The big surprise on Sunday was that the Chargers played their starters for the first three quarters of the game.

Because of results earlier in the day, the Chargers were locked into a road matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Whether they won or lost in Denver was meaningless. The expectation was that the Chargers would rest their starters and keep them healthy for the playoffs.

But, as noted above, the starters played. And starting wide receiver Mike Williams was carted off the field with a back injury. And star pass rusher and starting linebacker Kenneth Murray both left the game with injuries of their own.

The Chargers’ decision was baffling, but it also kept the game competitive in the early going. The game was tied at halftime. The Broncos had built a 31-20 lead when the starters subbed out early in the third quarter.

If the goal was to build momentum heading into the postseason, the Chargers failed miserably.

Jerry Jeudy sets a new personal best

The star of Sunday’s game was third-year wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

Jeudy’s first catch was a 57-yarder crosser on the sideline that set the Broncos up at the three-yard line with 10 seconds left on the clock. On the next play, Denver scored a touchdown to tie the game at 17.

Early in the third quarter, Jeudy got loose downfield again. He caught a ball deep down the sideline for a 50-yard gain that set the Broncos up just past midfield. This time, the Broncos couldn’t capitalize.

By the end of the game, Jeudy had caught five of his six targets for 154 yards, a new career high. He finished 28 receiving yards shy of 1,000 for the season. He also ran for 39 yards on end arounds.

Quarterback Russell Wilson put together one of his best performances of the season. He completed 13 of 24 attempts for 283 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. His 118.6 passer rating was the second-best of his season, his yards were his third most and his three touchdowns tied the first Kansas City game for his most this season. His 27 rushing yards were his third most.

The running game leads the way

For the first time since 2018, the Broncos ran for more than 200 yards on Sunday.

Denver spent a significant amount of time in an inverted wishbone formation from the pistol, which meant there were four players, including Russell Wilson, in the backfield. Even without the exotic looks, Denver was consistently running heavy personnel on the field.

Latavius Murray ran for 103 yards, the second-most of his season and added his fifth touchdown of the year. He also caught a 15-yard pass.

Chase Edmonds added 45 yards. Wilson ran for 18, including two succesful quarterback sneaks. Jerry Jeudy picked up 18 more.

Rookie running back Tyler Badie caught a pass in his first NFL game and took it 24 yards for a touchdown.

The running game allowed the Brocnos to run play action and give Wilson favorable matchups downfield.

Justin Simmons changes the game

The Broncos defense won’t be happy it gave up 28 points, but it had its moments.

Saffety Justin Simmons forced a pair of fumbles, one of which gave the Broncos the ball at midfield and another stuffed the Lions within 10 yards of the end zone. Simmons also had 10 tackles on Sunday. Simmons now has three forced fumbles, which ties for the sixth-most in the NFL to go with six interceptions, which ties for the league lead.

After allowing touchdowns on two of the game’s first three drives, enver’s defense stiffened. It held the Chargers to one score in its final four possessions of the game, and that came after a muffed punt set Los Angeles up just outside the red zone.

Special teams issues arise

Despite losing both of last week’s starting returners, Marlon Mack and Kendall Hinton, to injury, the Broncos didn’t give Montrell Washington another chance to step up. In fact, they didn’t even give him a uniform on Sunday.

Instead, the Broncos turned to Freddie Swain to return punts. He muffed his first attempt at a punt return, but was able to fall on the ball.

When Swain left the game with a hip injury, undrafted rookie receiver Brandon Johnson took his place. He got his first chance in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold the ball and the Chargers took over in Denver territory.

On another punt return, the Broncos were called for an illegal blcok above the waist. And on a fourth-quarter punt, they gave up a 28-yard return.

Author

Henry was born in Columbia Falls, Montana and graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 2015. He earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Montana in 2019. After graduation, he joined DNVR. He spent three years covering the University of Colorado before moving to the Broncos beat ahead of the 2022 season. Henry joined DNVR as a remote staff writer in 2017, providing support to BSN's Broncos beat reporters. He interned at DNVR headquarters in the summer of 2018 and accepted a full-time position after graduating from UM. Follow Henry on Twitter - @HenryChisholm

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