Three things to watch in review
1. Long shots can’t hit
Philip Rivers had far more success throwing downfield than any other quarterback the Broncos had faced before him. Rivers averaged 15.6 yards per completion in the first half, and four receivers had at least one catch of 20 yards or more before halftime.
2. Unfamiliar middle names
Denver wasn’t really able to take advantage of San Diego’s leaky rush defense, gaining only 3.1 yards per carry in the first half with a long run of 6 yards. But the Broncos did control the middle against San Diego’s offense. The Chargers had only 42 yards on 14 first-half rushing attempts.
3. Hold everything
The Chargers thrive off forcing turnovers, but the Broncos were careful with the ball. Quarterback Kyle Orton continued his efficient start to the season by not throwing an interception, and Denver didn’t lose a fumble. Correll Buckhalter fumbled in the fourth quarter, but guard Ben Hamilton recovered it.
Player of the game
WR Eddie Royal: The Broncos had a few players turn in big performances, but two kick returns for touchdowns is impossible to pass over. Royal didn’t have a catch in the game but he was the biggest difference maker.
Play of the game
Eddie Royal’s second return touchdown was a thing of beauty, starting with how he fielded the punt. Royal flawlessly handled a funny hop to his right, which allowed him to quickly get momentum upfield. Royal cut to the left, took it back to the right and had his second return touchdown of the game. On both, he wasn’t touched by a Chargers player.
The Broncos had just taken a 24-23 when outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil made a huge play. Rushing around right tackle, Dumervil sacked Philip Rivers and caused a fumble recovered by Vonnie Holliday. That halted some of San Diego’s offensive momentum and led to a Broncos field goal.
The Chargers’ run defense has been weak up the middle, but the Broncos spent most of the game in spread formations, passing the ball to the outside. Using plenty of screen passes and outside throws, Kyle Orton completed a high percentage of passes and kept the chains moving in another efficient performance.
Key coaching call
In the second quarter, the Broncos had an interesting decision. They could have accepted a holding call on San Diego, giving the Chargers a third and 15. Instead, Denver declined the penalty and let Nate Kaeding try a 44-yarder instead of trying to back him up 10 yards. Kaeding hit the field goal to cut Denver’s lead to 17-13.
The typically focused and disciplined Broncos took two penalties when they lost their cool Monday. Brandon Marshall booted a ball out of frustration when he didn’t think the Chargers were going to be assessed a penalty for pass interference — ironically, the flag was coming when Marshall booted the ball. Then in the third quarter Knowshon Moreno got a delay of game call for spiking the ball when he couldn’t convert on third and 1.